Amazon invests in self-driving auto start-up Aurora Innovation

Amazon invests in self-driving auto start-up Aurora Innovation

Troy Powers
February 12, 2019

Other funding participants include funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Geodesic, Shell Ventures, and Reinvent Capital, as well as previous Aurora investors Greylock and Index Ventures. Chief Technology Officer Drew Bagnell was previously a lead engineer with Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving vehicle group, while Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson worked at Tesla the head of its Autopilot unit.

Self-driving auto startup Aurora has raised more than $530 million in fresh funding, bucking recent skepticism by investors and industry players that autonomous vehicle technology has been overhyped. The company presently employs around 250 workers split between its Bay Area and Pittsburgh campuses.

Amazon is clearly keen on the idea of self-driving vehicles, not only having patented a highway network that controls self-driving cars and trucks, but also partnering with Toyota's fully autonomous, battery-electric e-Palette Concept Vehicle and unveiling a series of unmanned robot scouts to deliver goods to Amazon customers.

The founders' impressive credentials have helped Aurora not just with fundraising but also on the business front.

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Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is building autonomous vehicle technology.

But the crowded field is largely dominated by the top five companies with significant backing and funding: Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo unit, General Motors Co.'s Cruise unit, Zoox, Aurora and Ford Motor Co. -backed Argo AI.

The second round of funding values Aurora at US$2.5 billion, and- with a team made of former Waymo developers and Tesla autopilot engineers- it's likely to accelerate the Palo Alto-based firm to frontrunner position in the autonomous vehicle race. For example, yesterday's funding round included Amazon, which could someday use autonomous vehicle technology "in a fulfillment center or on the road", it said in a statement.