Volkswagen and Hyundai's new partner Aurora Innovation was formed a year ago by ex-Google autonomous vehicle chief Chris Urmson, ex-Tesla executive Sterling Anderson and former Uber executive Drew Bagnell.
The company has offices in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Palo Alto, Calif. Anderson said Aurora wanted to have a presence in Pittsburgh to benefit from the vast talent in the city. The support of two of the largest vehicle companies could help propel Aurora in a nascent industry that is working to upend the future of personal transportation.
The Silicon Valley start-up was founded by ex-Google (Waymo) and Tesla employees and has also been working with Volkswagen for the past six months to incorporate its hardware, sensors and software into the German maker's cars. The team also includes Drew Bagnell as chief technology officer, who previously led Uber's autonomy and perception team.
Self-driving startup Aurora came on the scene in a precarious situation past year when the existence of the company was first made public through Tesla's lawsuit against Sterling Anderson, co-founder of the startup and the automaker's former director of Autopilot program. The Boston Consulting Group, for example, predicts one-quarter of miles driven in the U.S.by 2030 may be through shared, self-driving vehicles.
Hyundai first began testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in the United States back in 2015, having been granted a licence by the state of Nevada. The tech company has been working with Fiat Chrysler since 2016 to outfit its Chrysler Pacifica minivans with autonomous technology.
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"This tech is not easy, and not everyone will get across the finish line", Urmson says. "You can imagine working with others in this field and immediately you have competition". The parent company, which owns high-end brands like Audi and Porsche, recently committed more than €34 billion (RM163.7 billion) over five years to develop electric and autonomous vehicle technology.
The acquisition of Cruise vaulted GM as one of the leaders of the self-driving vehicle pack in 2017, with the Detroit automaker promising a self-driving fleet in a yet-to-be-named city by next year. The companies will start with models custom developed and launched in test programs and pilot cities.
Neither motor company nor Aurora is disclosing financial terms of the partnerships. Neither deals are exclusive.
Volkswagen and Hyundai have turned to Aurora to accelerate how fast the technology appears on roads.
Hyundai's Mr. Jang demurred on what those talks might entail, citing confidentially agreements.
The companies give Aurora access to different vehicles, from traditional cars, trucks and SUVs to commercial vans and shuttles. "Basically, for us, it would be additional business".