Aurora: The Self-Driving Startup Making Big Moves

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Currently, there are a number of of self-driving companies racing to make autonomous vehicles a reality. One to keep your eye on is Aurora. Backed by big companies with deep pockets, such as Amazon, Sequoia Capital, and most recently the Hyundai Motor Group, the self-driving startup has positioned itself as a leader in the field and wants it to stay that way.

Earlier this month, Aurora announced that it has raised more than $600 million in Series B financing, thanks to investment from the Hyundai Motor Group, which includes both Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation. The startup had already been working with Hyundia and Kia to develop their NEXO vehicle which will be integrated with the Aurora Driver.

Aurora has also made big waves with its acquisition of the lidar company Blackmore. The purchase is significant in that lidar technology enables the car’s system to not only sense where objects are, but to simultaneously determine their velocity. This technology is key to a self-driving car’s ability to safely navigate busy streets with various moving objects. Wired reports that because lidar technology is so relevant to autonomous driving, the market is expected to “generate more than $8 billion in annual revenue in 2032.” And yet lidar has its flaws. It’s expensive and difficult to scale up. Elon Musk has called lidar “laaaaame” and he and several others in the industry argue that deep learning and camera-based vision systems are a better option. At this point it’s difficult to determine which technology will pay off.

So what now? Aurora CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson is confident they’re in it for the long haul — asserting that the company has the necessary experience and deep knowledge necessary to make self-driving a reality. In an interview with The Vergecast he said, “people talk about there being self-driving cars today, but there aren’t. They’re not really out there yet. Once we start to see commercial scale happening, there will be evidence that the system works well and serving people well, and that will start to build a bit of a flywheel.” Urmson also addressed Aurora’s positioning in the field of autonomous driving, saying, “Well, we don’t think there’ll be many, many people who can do this. We think actually building the driver is really hard. We imagine what’s now around 100 companies working in this space will probably consolidate down to a handful, and we expect to be one of those companies” In other words, keep an eye on Aurora.


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Erika Clugston

Erika is a writer and artist based in Berlin. She is passionate about sharing stories of climate change and cleantech initiatives worldwide. Whether it’s transforming the fashion, food, or engineering industries, there’s an opportunity and responsibility for us all to do better. In addition to contributing to CleanTechnica, Erika is the Web and Social Media Editor at LOLA Magazine and writes regularly about art and culture.

Erika Clugston has 54 posts and counting. See all posts by Erika Clugston