Self-driving startup Aurora came on the scene in a precarious situation last year when the existence of the company was first made public through Tesla’s lawsuit against Sterling Anderson, co-founder of the startup and the automaker’s former director of Autopilot program.
But they have since settled the suit and Aurora spent the last year working on its self-driving technology.
Not much is known about their tech yet, but it’s apparently impressive enough to convince two major automakers to partner with the startup.
Aurora announced today that they signed partnerships with the Volkswagen Group and Hyundai Motor Corporation.
They described the partnership in a press release:
Volkswagen Group Partnership
- The partnership between Volkswagen Group and Aurora brings the two companies together to develop self-driving electric vehicles and bring them to cities as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) fleets.
- The partnership will focus on the ongoing development of software and hardware for driverless vehicles, and, additionally, mobility services for urban and rural areas.
- As the Self-Driving System (SDS) reaches the required maturity and safety levels in the first cities, it can be integrated across the Group brands, for different product categories: from fully self-driving pods, shuttles or delivery vans to self-driving trucks without a cabin.
- Over the past six months, specialists from the Volkswagen Group and the Volkswagen Future Center in Silicon Valley, have been working intensively with experts from Aurora to integrate Aurora’s self-driving system including sensors, hardware and software, such as machine learning and AI technology in Volkswagen Group’s vehicle platforms.
Hyundai Motor Group partnership
- The partnership will incorporate Aurora self-driving technology into Hyundai vehicles, starting with models custom-developed and launched in test programs and pilot cities such as China’s Future City.
- Hyundai and Aurora share the common vision of improving safety and mobility on the world’s roads, and together bring the skills and experience required to successfully introduce self-driving technology in Hyundai vehicles by 2021.
- We will start by incorporating Aurora self-driving technology into Hyundai models custom-developed and launched in test programs and pilot cities – Level 4 automation. These autonomous vehicles can operate without human input or oversight under select conditions.
- Over the longer term, Hyundai and Aurora will work to commercialize self-driving vehicles worldwide.
The leaders in the self-driving field are different depending on who you ask, but I think it’s fair to say that Tesla, Uber, and Google’s Waymo often come up as being on top of the game at the moment.
Which is why it was interesting to see a startup founded by some of the top leaders of each of those companies’ autonomous driving programs. We already mentioned Anderson from Tesla, but Aurora was also co-founded by Drew Bagnell, who headed the autonomy and perception team at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, and Chris Urmson, the former head of Google’s self-driving project.
In a blog post today, Urmson says that the team has since grown significantly and they now have fleets of test vehicles in California and Pennsylvania.
Based on those new partnerships and Urmson’s blog, it sounds like Aurora doesn’t want to develop its own autonomous vehicle, but instead aims to package an autonomous driving technology that can be integrated in different vehicles from automakers.
In that sense, the startup will be competing with companies like Mobileye and automakers who are sticking to their own self-driving technology, like Tesla and GM.