Amazon Invests in Autonomous Startup Aurora
Amazon has just invested into self-driving startup Aurora, according to a news report from Bloomberg. The $530 million USD cash infusion, which came from an investor group led by Sequoia Capital, also includes T. Rowe Price Group and has increased Aurora’s value to over $2.5 billion USD. Led by Chris Urmson, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell, who came from Google, Tesla, and Uber, respectively, Aurora has created partnerships with a number of automakers including Volkswagen Group and Hyundai Motor Group. The company, however, remains an independent entity and designs its hardware and data services to accommodate multiple manufacturers.
Sequoia Capital’s investment and the backing of Amazon and T. Rowe Price is considered a big vote of confidence for the self-driving startup. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve met with more than 15 of the top autonomous vehicle companies from around the world,” said Carl Eschenbach of Sequoia Capital who describes Aurora’s founders as the dream team with the best shot of disrupting the auto industry. As part of the investment, Eschenbach will also join Aurora’s board.
In an interview, Chris Urmson said that Aurora’s mission is to accelerate the viability of self-driving technology in a safe manner. “We’ve been incredibly fortunate that there is a lot of interest in Aurora, and we have been able to pick who is the most strategic for us,” he added. California is currently the center for autonomous vehicle development with Waymo, Cruise automation (backed by General Motors), Aurora, Zoox, and Argo AI (backed by Ford) being the big players. Amazon’s investment comes on the heels of reports that Apple had cut 200 employees from its self-driving car tech division, dubbed “Project Titan.”
Amazon’s investment into self-driving vehicles through Aurora is its first high profile move into the space. An Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company sees autonomous technology’s potential for increased productivity. T. Rowe Price, the other new investor in Aurora, is also the second largest Tesla shareholder after Elon Musk.
While 2019 will be the first year for public testing for companies working on self-driving technologies, Aurora’s Urmson pointed out that this isn’t a race. He tells investors that autonomous vehicle development is a long process and will eventually make a big impact by improving mobility and safety.