Amazon Invests in Self-Driving Car Startup Aurora Innovation

Roman Schwartz
February 10, 2019

Eschenbach will also be joining Aurora's board.

Aurora Chief Executive Chris Urmson, who earlier led Alphabet's self-driving program, said the financing allows Aurora to expand and refine the testing and development of its autonomous driving system, and to hire, growing its staff of more than 200 people spread between offices in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. Anderson had led Tesla's team that created the Autopilot system, while Urmson served as the Chief Technology Officer at Waymo (formerly Google's self-driving project).

"Since we set out on our mission two years ago to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly and broadly, we have received an incredible amount of support and interest in the future we are building", said Aurora's press release. 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 raised $90 million in a funding round a year ago.

But despite the money pouring into the industry, the self-driving cars that are common on the streets of Silicon Valley are largely test vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel. Amazon has been surprisingly absent from the discussion, but that's changing as the online retailer has invested in Aurora.

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"Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive", an Amazon spokesperson said to Bloomberg, "whether it's in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we're excited about the possibilities".

Amazon did not reveal how much it had invested but said it could use driverless vehicle systems in package delivery or in its warehouses.

Aurora is among dozens of startups, automakers and large technology companies working on self-driving auto systems, eager to capitalize on a sea change in the transportation industry brought by developments in machine learning.

"We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that".

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