Self-driving technology startup Aurora Innovation recently received half a billion dollars in a funding round that involved numerous investors such as Amazon.
This effort marks the latest indication of the e-commerce giant’s increased interest in autonomous vehicles.
In late January, CNBC found out that Embark, an autonomous driving truck company, had been transporting Amazon cargo on several of its test runs.
A week before that discovery, Amazon revealed that it had created Scout, a small autonomous delivery robot.
“We are always innovating and working with innovative companies to improve the customer experience and safety of our team,” a spokesperson for Amazon revealed last week in response to the Embark news. “We think successful over the road autonomy will create safer roadways and a better work environment for drivers on long-haul runs.”
Amazon has also pushed hard into other areas of the automotive industry.
Aside from rolling out a dashboard product that features Alexa, the online retail giant has installed a particular voice assistant into several cars.
Last year, Amazon also launched a service that will assist people in accepting deliveries into the trunk of their vehicle.
For several years now, the company has been developing drones and is said to have created a home robot.
However, Amazon’s investment in Aurora marks its first public link between the company and autonomous driving passenger vehicles.
None of the two companies disclosed the amount contributed by Amazon out of the $530 million raised in the funding exercise.
To date, Aurora has fundraised $620 million.
Aside from Amazon, Sequoia Capital was also among the investment companies that took part in the round.
“Amazon’s unique expertise, capabilities, and perspectives will be valuable for us as we drive towards our mission,” Aurora claimed in a blog post about the news.
Chris Urmson is known for founding Aurora back in 2016 after leaving his post at Google’s autonomous driving car program.
He left the program just several months before it was spun out as Waymo.
After leaving Google, Urmson hired Drew Bagnell and Sterling Anderson who was the former head of Uber autonomy and Tesla’s head of its Autopilot team respectively.
Tesla later sued Urmson and Anderson for poaching its staff to create Aurora, even though the lawsuit was settled.
Since then, Aurora has worked silently on developing a software stack for autonomous driving vehicles.
In essence, the company aims to develop the nervous system for self-driving cars, and then collaborate with car manufacturers to install the particular software into their vehicles.
At the start of 2018, Aurora revealed that Hyundai and Volkswagen would be its first clients before adding EV startup Byton to the customer list months later.
Aurora sets its self apart from the numerous companies out there that are currently developing self-driving technology, thanks to its remarkable team. “[W]e met with nearly every AV company in the world from Detroit to Singapore. But each discussion brought us back to Chris and his team as the benchmark against which everyone else was measured,” Carl Eschenbach, a partner at Sequoia, wrote in a blog post.
In an interview with the Verge, Anderson said: “As the saying goes, A players want to work with A players,” he said. “I think the very common response from those who come onsite to interview at Aurora is ‘holy shit, you have an impressive team.’”