Amazon invests in a self-driving vehicle startup

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Even if you're a vehicle buff, you may not have heard of Aurora Innovation, but with news that the company has raised in excess of $530 million from some major Silicon Valley players, you're likely to read about them a lot more from now on.

Aurora is developing the technology for autonomous vehicles, but leaving the making of cars to other companies and said in a blog post it wants to work alongside, rather than compete with, leading automakers.

The fact that Aurora drew investment from Amazon, which hasn't made many high-profile moves into driverless vehicles, will invite speculation about the online giant's motivations.

While Aurora has cultivated partnerships with the likes of Hyundai Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, it has thus far remained independent, designing software, hardware, and data service products that would support a range of manufacturers and transportation networks. Anderson had led Tesla's team that created the Autopilot system, while Urmson served as the Chief Technology Officer at Waymo (formerly Google's self-driving project).

T. Rowe Price also invested along with Amazon.com Inc and several venture capital firms. Eschenbach will take a seat on the startup's board. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round previous year. Amazon, a logistics and delivery behemoth, has shown interest in autonomous driving, recently launching a program to help developers test their own self-driving technology.

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Many companies, however, have encountered technical challenges that have derailed their timelines to deliver self-driving cars and raised questions about the feasibility of deploying fleets of autonomous vehicles in crowded cities.

Aurora isn't just another self-driving tech company.

Amazon did not reveal how much it had invested but said it could use driverless vehicle systems in package delivery or in its warehouses.

In California alone, over 60 companies have DMV permits to test autonomous vehicles on the roads (most commonly with safety drivers in attendance), although the burgeoning industry is still dominated by cash-rich giants like Alphabet Inc. and GM.

"We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that", Amazon said in response to an AFP inquiry.

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