Aurora, Led by Google and Tesla Driverless Car Vets, Lands $90M

Aurora Innovation, a self-driving car startup whose founders have ties to Google, Tesla, and Uber, has raised $90 million in Series A funding co-led by Greylock Partners and Index Ventures.

Along with the money, Greylock and Index are adding a member each to Aurora’s board of directors: Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock, and Mike Volpi of Index, who is a former Cisco executive.

Aurora’s approach is to supply original equipment manufacturers with “a full stack self-driving software system,” with capabilities such as perception, forecasting, motion-planning, and map schema, according to Hoffman, who posted a blog announcing the deal this morning. The company has already signed partnerships with Volkswagen Group, Hyundai Motors, and Chinese smart and electric vehicle maker Byton, Hoffman wrote.

“Aurora’s mission is to deliver self-driving technology to all automotive manufacturers, not just one,” Hoffman wrote in the post.

Hoffman added that he became involved after meeting Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson a few years ago; the meeting took place after Urmson founded and while he was leading Google’s self-driving car program, Waymo (the name the program took in 2016). Urmson, who Hoffman calls the “Henry Ford of autonomous vehicles,” founded Aurora in December 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Urmson isn’t the only one at Aurora with a self-driving pedigree. Drew Bagnell, the company’s chief technology officer, runs a research lab at Carnegie Mellon University focused on machine learning and robotics, and also worked on autonomy and perception for Uber’s self-driving car program in Pittsburgh, according to his LinkedIn. And Sterling Anderson, the chief product officer, was most recently the director of the autopilot program for Tesla.

Aurora is hardly alone in its pursuit of autonomous vehicles, of course. Fortune noted that there are 50 companies currently testing self-driving cars in California. There are plenty elsewhere, too, including Ann Arbor, MI-based May Mobility, which said this week it raised $11.5 million in seed funding from BMW i Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures to develop its autonomous vehicle fleet.

Index Ventures’ Volpi wrote in a separate blog post that he believes Aurora’s founders, commitment to the auto industry, and technological capabilities differentiate it from the pack. The company uses cameras, radar, and LiDAR systems to map the world around it, and uses machine learning algorithms to make decisions and improve that decision-making while driving. Volpi didn’t dive much deeper into exactly how that makes Aurora better than some of its competitors, other than to say that competitors don’t use the hardware and software in the same way as Aurora.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @xconholley

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