Aurora's three founders are legendary within the tight community of roboticists and engineers who are leading the charge to make self-driving cars a reality. Bagnell was a founder member of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Centre and Uber's Advanced Technology Centre.
The self-driving vehicle startup has just announced that it's scored significant Series B financing support from a block of investors led by Sequoia Capital, a big-name venture capital firm that counts Amazon and T. Rowe Price among its backers.
"This is really about accelerating and delivering on our mission, which is to deliver self-driving technology safely, quickly and broadly", Urmson said in an interview.
The fact that Aurora drew investment from Amazon, which hasn't made many high-profile moves into driverless vehicles, will invite speculation about the online giant's motivations. It has partnerships with Byton, Hyundai Motor Co and Volkswagen to develop and test self-driving systems that one day, Urmson said, can be used by a broad range of automakers, fleet owners and other transportation industry players. 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.
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The funding round for Aurora Innovation led by Silicon Valley venture capital powerhouse Sequoia reportedly valued the startup launched just two years ago at more than $2.5 billion. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round past year.
Like many similar startups, Aurora is focused on developing a driverless system rather than producing full-fledged cars. The case eventually settled and Aurora paid Tesla $100,000. 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.
In California alone, over 60 companies have DMV permits to test autonomous vehicles on the roads (most commonly with safety drivers in attendance), although the burgeoning industry is still dominated by cash-rich giants like Alphabet Inc. and GM.