Amazon and Other Investors Plunk $530 Million in Self-Driving Car Firm, Aurora Innovation

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Aurora self-driving test car (Photo: Aurora Innovation)

California-based Aurora Innovation, Inc, one of the leaders in self-driving car technology, has raised over $530 million in a Series B round from a group of investors that include top venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and online retailing behemoth, Amazon.com.

This second round of funding for Aurora values the company at more than $2.5 billion. Analysts said the large investment by the Sequoia-led group is a resounding vote of confidence in Aurora Innovation, which is one among the more than 60 self-driving firms operating in California.

"Over the last couple of years, we've met with more than 15 of the top autonomous vehicle companies from around the world," said Sequoia's Carl Eschenbach, according to Bloomberg. "This is the dream team of self-driving vehicles. Aurora has the best team across the industry and the best shot of being the most disruptive force going forward."

Aurora Innovation said the massive new round of funding will allow it to continue to scale its operations. Aurora Innovation CEO Chris Urmson said the funding is really about accelerating and delivering on the company's mission, "which is to deliver self-driving technology safely, quickly and broadly."

He said the company has been incredibly fortunate "there is a lot of interest in Aurora, and we have been able to pick who is the most strategic for us."

Urmson, one of the guiding lights of the self-driving car movement, was an early leader in the driverless car project launched within Google that later became Waymo.

Supporting Urmson in Aurora Innovation is Sterling Anderson, chief product officer, who once led Tesla Inc.'s Autopilot team that developed driver-assistance technology for Tesla's all-electric sedans. Then there's Drew Bagnell, chief technology officer, who was a founding member of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group.

Eschenbach was referring to the trio when he described the dream team of self-driving vehicles. He also said Aurora Innovation has the best team across the autonomous vehicle industry.

Amazon sees its investment in Aurora Innovations as part of its core automation philosophy. Amazon is designing a future delivery system where aerial drones deliver packages, and where driverless delivery vehicles are most welcome.

"Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive," said an Amazon spokesperson, "whether it's in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we're excited about the possibilities."

California is the global center of autonomous-vehicle research with over 60 companies securing permits to test cars from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. This packed field, however, is mostly dominated by the top five self-driving companies: Aurora innovation; Waymo (a unit of Alphabet Inc.); Cruise (a unit of General Motors Company); Zoox, and Argo AI (which is supported by Ford Motor Company).

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