Amazon moves into driverless cars with investment in U.S. start-up Aurora

"We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that", Amazon said in response to an AFP inquiry. Aurora's platform Having no interest in building or operating fleets of self-driving vehicles, Aurora is partnering with automakers like Volkswagen, Hyundai Motor and Chinese-backed electric vehicle startup Byton to help develop their self-driving vehicles.

It forms part of $530 million (circa £408m) of funding secured from a group of backers including Amazon and companies such as fund management giant T Rowe Price.

The Series B financing raises Aurora's valuation to almost $2.5 billion according to TechCrunch. Chief Technology Officer Drew Bagnell was previously a lead engineer with Uber Technologies Inc.'s self-driving auto group, while Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson worked at Tesla Inc.as the head of its Autopilot unit. "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 in an interview. The company presently employs around 250 workers split between its Bay Area and Pittsburgh campuses. It competes with companies like Alphabet's Waymo and Argo AI (Ford) and Cruise (GM). Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round previous year. Even Waymo's robotaxi service in Arizona still has trained backup drivers inside.

Although the full terms of the deal haven't been disclosed, the move is a significant surge by the online retailing giant into the ever-expanding autonomous segment. For example, yesterday's funding round included Amazon, which could someday use autonomous vehicle technology "in a fulfillment center or on the road", it said in a statement.

And, of course, self-driving cars aren't just for people- they can also serve a fundamental role in logistics. 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.

Aurora is among dozens of startups, automakers and large technology companies working on self-driving vehicle systems, eager to capitalize on a sea change in the transportation industry brought by developments in machine learning. Amazon invests in self-driving technology Amazon is very interested in self-driving technology.

Vanessa Coleman

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