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article imageAmazon eases into self-driving tech, joining Aurora funding surge

By Karen Graham     Feb 8, 2019 in Technology
Self-driving car start-up Aurora announced Thursday that it has raised more than $530 million in funding, from investors including Amazon, Sequoia, T. Rowe Price, and the investment arm of energy giant Shell.
"This funding and partnership will accelerate our mission of delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly," Aurora said. Aurora's leadership has a lot of experience in the automotive industry, too. Startup Aurora is a developer of full-stack self-driving software systems for automakers.
Founded in 2016, the company is led by former Google Self-Driving Car Project chief Chris Urmson, Chris Urmson, one of the creators of Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo, former Tesla autopilot chief, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell, a co-founder of Uber’s self-driving car unit.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess showed off the "I.D. Vizzion"  concept car  which is also con...
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess showed off the "I.D. Vizzion" concept car, which is also conceived as being electric and offering autonomous driving
The latest round of funding - led by Silicon Valley-based venture firm Sequoia Capital - also included Amazon and T. Rowe Price. Carl Eschenbach, a Sequoia partner, is also joining Aurora’s board, which includes fellow tech investors Mike Volpi, Ian Smith, and Reid Hoffman, according to Forbes.
The latest round of investments makes Aurora one of the best-funded companies working on autonomous vehicle technology. Aurora has now raised a total of $620 million that includes a $90 million round a year ago.
Aurora's platform
Having no interest in building or operating fleets of self-driving vehicles, Aurora is partnering with automakers like Volkswagen, Hyundai Motor and Chinese-backed electric vehicle startup Byton to help develop their self-driving vehicles. The new company does have some competition, including Waymo and self-driving companies that were acquired by Ford (Argo AI) and GM (Cruise).
Waymo self-driving trucks will carry cargo bound for Google’s data centers.
Waymo self-driving trucks will carry cargo bound for Google’s data centers.
Aurora has so far, remained independent - wanting to focus on designing software, hardware, and data service products that will support a wide range of automakers' needs. It aims to be the “nerve center” of autonomous vehicles, creating what the company calls the Aurora Driver platform.
In a blog piece published on Medium, Aurora explains: “Moreover, all Aurora-powered vehicles carry a common set of self-driving hardware and run the same self-driving software, allowing Aurora and its partners to benefit from the collective scale of all participants…learn[ing] from the combined experience of all vehicles on the platform.”
Amazon invests in self-driving technology
Amazon is very interested in self-driving technology. They even have a team dedicated to building autonomous vehicle technology, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A self driving Volvo XC90 outside 737 Harrisonn in San Francisco  Calif.  the unmarked headquarters ...
A self driving Volvo XC90 outside 737 Harrisonn in San Francisco, Calif., the unmarked headquarters of Otto, an autonomous trucking company acquired by Uber in 2016.
Dilu (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Amazon also announced a partnership with Toyota last year to explore different ways to use self-driving cars to deliver food. Additionally, earlier this week, CNBC reported that Amazon is already hauling cargo in self-driving trucks developed by Embark.
Founded in 2016, Embark has raised at least $47 million in venture funding from firms including Sequoia Capital, Data Collective, Y Combinator, and AME Cloud Ventures. While delivery costs exceeded $27 billion in 2018 for Amazon, self-driving technologies may help Amazon reduce its delivery costs.
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