Amazon eases into self-driving tech, joining Aurora funding surge

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Self-driving startup Aurora Innovation has raised US$530 million from a group of investors including Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and e-commerce titan Amazon. "Fully autonomous driving is inevitable; just as machines replaced manual labor during the industrial revolution, they will replace cognitive labor during the information revolution", said Carl Eschenbach, general partner of Sequoia capital operations.

The Series B financing raises Aurora's valuation to almost $2.5 billion according to TechCrunch.

A self-driving auto tech start-up founded by former Google, Tesla and Uber executives said on Thursday it had secured US$530 million (S$719 million) in new funding that includes a "significant" investment from Amazon. Chris Urmson, the chief executive officer, was an early leader of the driverless vehicle project launched within Google that later became Waymo, now widely seen as the first robotaxi business to emerge.

Aurora says it will now be able to increase its team of 200 employees while continuing to develop the software and hardware used by cars from Volkswagen, Hyundai and Byton. Eschenbach will also be joining Aurora's board. Amazon, a logistics and delivery behemoth, has shown interest in autonomous driving, recently launching a program to help developers test their own self-driving technology.

Aurora is building self-driving technology, and the new funds are aimed at accelerating delivery of that technology, according to the announcement by Aurora. On the recent earnings call of Waymo's parent, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said the company is in talks to move into several other cities beyond the Phoenix area, where its first robotaxi service debuted in late 2018.

Aurora is among dozens of startups, automakers and large technology companies working on self-driving vehicle systems, eager to capitalize on a sea change in the transportation industry brought by developments in machine learning. Embark also received significant funding from Sequoia previous year and has raised $47 million overall to date.

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