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10 February 2019, 12:30 | Joann Bryant
Amazon enters self-driving car arena, invests in Aurora run by former Tesla execs
"This funding and partnership will accelerate our mission of delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly", Aurora announced in its blog, adding that "Amazon's unique expertise, capabilities, and perspectives will be valuable for us as we drive towards our mission".
The self-driving startup led by ex-Tesla and ex-Google executives, Aurora Innovation, Inc. has landed $530 million dollars in funding after a successful second investment round, and one of its most notable contributors was Amazon. CEO Chris Urmson was with Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) self-driving auto program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, worked for Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson helped lead Tesla's Autopilot development. Bagnell was a founder member of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Centre and Uber's Advanced Technology Centre.
The stature of its founders has allowed Aurora to attract top talent, with more than 250 people split between the San Francisco Bay Area and Pittsburgh, as well as interest from investors and partners.
"We have been very clear this is not a quick thing", he said. The startup has remained fiercely independent, cultivating partnerships with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Byton while designing a suite of software, hardware and data services created to support a range of automakers and transportation networks.
Last month, a Reddit user spotted a self-driving semi truck run by Embark Trucks, a startup integrating its software systems into Peterbilt vehicles, hauling freight for Amazon along the I-10 interstate highway. But the crowded field is largely dominated by the top five companies with significant backing and funding: Alphabet'sWaymo unit, General Motors' Cruise unit, Zoox, Aurora and Ford-backed Argo AI. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round previous year.
T. Rowe Price also invested along with Amazon.com Inc and several venture capital firms. Overall, it intends to be the "nerve center" of autonomous vehicles, and that vision has been funneled into what the company calls the Aurora Driver platform.
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