Self-driving startup Aurora attracts major Amazon investment

Amazon is showing a growing interest in autonomous technology, having recently taken part in a $530 million funding round for Silicon Valley-based self-driving startup Aurora Innovation

With its ongoing development of autonomous delivery drones, the recent unveiling of a self-driving delivery robot, the use of self-driving truck tests to transport some of its goods, and deployment of robots in its fulfillment centers, Amazon’s investment in Aurora is its very latest move to explore the technology’s potential.

Responding to inquiries about why it backed Aurora, Amazon said it’s “always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies,” adding, “Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

In other words, the ecommerce giant will be hoping its investment will lead to greater technological advances that help it to further refine its complex logistics operation.

News of the $530 million funding round came on Thursday, February 7  via a blog post by Silicon Valley-based Aurora. In the post, it said Amazon’s “unique expertise, capabilities, and perspectives” would prove valuable in its work.

Aurora Innovation was founded in 2016 by experienced contributors to driverless-car projects run by the likes of Google (now Waymo) and Uber, as well as Tesla, whose vehicles incorporate Autopilot, a system that offers drivers a degree of autonomy behind the wheel.

According to Aurora’s website, its primary focus is on the creation of autonomous technologies aimed at “transforming the way people and goods move.”

Aurora has already gained plenty of interest in its short life, inking a deal with South Korean automaker Hyundai in 2018 to build self-driving prototypes based on its eco-friendly Nexo vehicle.

It has also partnered with Volkswagen to incorporate its autonomous technology into the German automaker’s cars. Deals between Silicon Valley tech firms and established automakers are not uncommon as they allow the latter to avoid the costs of building their own research and development programs. Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover, for example, have both partnered with autonomous technology firm Waymo for ongoing work in the U.S., with the company recently becoming the first in the U.S. to charge for rides in driverless cars, using Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

Aurora clearly has its sights set on similar goals. “Since we set out on our mission two years ago to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly, we have received an incredible amount of support and interest in the future we are building,” it said in its blog post, adding that this latest investment will help it to accelerate the development of its technology, as well as strengthen its team and ecosystem.

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