Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Finance | By Kristine Clayton

Amazon invests in self-driving auto startup Aurora

Amazon invests in self-driving auto startup Aurora

Chris Urmson, the chief executive officer, was an early leader of the driverless auto project launched within Google that later became Waymo, now widely seen as the first robotaxi business to emerge. 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. Bagnell was a founder member of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Centre and Uber's Advanced Technology Centre.

"We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that", Amazon said in response to an AFP inquiry. Aurora's leadership has a lot of experience in the automotive industry, too.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon's investment in Aurora will help Amazon develop an autonomous supply chain network with self-driving vehicles to move packages and reduce the cost of deliveries. Aurora has now raised a total of $620 million that includes a $90 million round a year ago. 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. The company is a leader in supply-chain automation and is vocal about pushing the envelope with new technology, such as drones, to carry out transportation and deliveries. Waymo has been in talks to create a delivery and logistics effort, while Ford has been testing driverless delivery of pizza with Domino's and groceries with Postmates. Overall, it intends to be the "nerve center" of autonomous vehicles, and that vision has been funneled into what the company calls the Aurora Driver platform.

For Aurora's Urmson, who has been working on the technology for more than a decade, this isn't a race: "We're clear with our investors that this is a long road", he said, "and at the end of that road is incredible impact on improving safety and mobility".

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