Aurora is Driving Full Speed into the Future
There is little doubt that self-driving technologies will be a part of the future, so the question is: who will lead the charge? Companies such as Tesla and Google have made huge strides in creating autonomous vehicles, but a company younger than your preschooler may be the future. The three-year-old "Aurora" has developed advanced self-driving technology that is safe and can be widely adopted in a number of different industries.
Aurora was co-founded by three different people who each have a wealth of knowledge about self-driving technology. Chris Urmson led Google’s self-driving program before co-founding Aurora. Drew Bagnell was the former head of Uber’s autonomy and perception team. And Sterling Anderson, the third co-founder, led Tesla’s autopilot team.
In fact, Tesla was unsettled enough by Anderson’s departure that they attempted to sue Anderson for taking confidential information and attempting to poach Tesla engineers. However, the lawsuit was ultimately dropped by Tesla, and Aurora is more than stable. There are about 200 people that make up Aurora, who are generally divided into either perception or motion-planning teams. Altogether, Aurora has created impressive technology that has grabbed the attention of serious investors.
Aurora is building “driver” technology that can be used for a variety of things. Aurora built their product to not only be able to move people but also to move goods. They made their technology capable of flawlessly integrating into various platforms such as cars, taxis, and so on. Furthermore, Aurora already intends on incorporating their product into VW, Hyundai, or China’s Byton.
The three-year old company’s technology is so impressive in part because they built their own map so that their software can understand the road to a higher level. Additionally, their tech is better than other company’s products at predicting motion of other objects. Finally, Aurora created a simulator to test its software that allows for repeatable testing and specific scenarios, which is impossible to do on the road as other companies have to do. As a result, investors are pouring money into the product.
Aurora recently raised 530 million dollars, which was led by Sequoia Capital but captured other serious investors such as T. Rowe Price and Amazon. This is the most money Sequoia Capital, a venture capital company, has given to a self-driving company.
However, the participation of Amazon investing in Aurora is maybe more striking. Amazon’s interest could mean a few things for Aurora down the road. For example, Aurora could power delivery vehicles overseen by Amazon, or Amazon could acquire Aurora outright to help lower their cost structures. Aurora has stated that it could also see itself partnering with Uber or Lyft at some point in the future.
Overall, the company seems to have a bright future. From the ability to run their software over and over to the potential upside of partnering with so many different firms, it is easy to see why Aurora may take over autonomous driving.
Written by Willie Turchetta, Edited by Devaansh Mahtani & Alexander Fleiss