Aurora Innovation's self-driving dream team gets US$530M from Amazon, Sequoia

It was founded in 2016 by Chris Urmson, who led Google's self-driving auto project before it became Waymo. Chief Technology Officer Drew Bagnell was previously a lead engineer with Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving auto group, while Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson worked at Tesla Inc.as the head of its Autopilot unit. Drew Bagnell, the chief technology officer, was a founding member of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. So, even if Amazon is agnostic about the vehicles it hopes to implement in the future, partnering with a company like Aurora for its transportation network development would probably work well with its current direction due to Aurora's multi-platform software. Aurora's leadership has a lot of experience in the automotive industry, too. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round a year ago. Zoox raised US$500 million last summer and recently announced former Intel Corp. executive Aicha Evans as its new CEO. The new $530 million round marks marks the first time the online retail giant has publicly invested in the self-driving auto market, which amounts to a significant endorsement. Amazon now uses automation in its warehouses and is designing a future delivery system with drones to deliver packages, and is a technology company with a significant logistics arm.

"Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it's in a fulfilment centre or on the road, and we are excited about the possibilities".

And, of course, self-driving cars aren't just for people- they can also serve a fundamental role in logistics.

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.

This year will mark a public test for some of the early leaders in driverless technology.

  • Anthony Vega