According to the news report by Bloomberg, 3 ex-employees from Google, Uber and Tesla have teamed up found a startup called Aurora, to develop self-driving electric vehicles. Aurora is going to team up with Hyundai Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG to develop these electric vehicles. Both Hyundai and Volkswagen made separate announcements regarding this news.
Johann Jungwirth, Chief Digital Officer at Volkswagen stated in a telephonic interview that this was going to be the partnership of the century. He also stated that he had complete trust in the Aurora team.
This partnership is going to put Hyundai and VW directly against Tesla, Alphabet’s Waymo, other ride-hailing companies as well as other major auto manufacturers. This deal is also going to increase the competition in the market as each of the parties scramble to develop and manufacture – and be the first to launch – driverless vehicles.
While there have been numerous startups in recent years that have focused on developing driverless vehicles, Aurora’s partnership with both Hyundai as well as VW has catapulted it to the top ranks of such companies.
The reason Aurora is attracting so much attention is because of who the three founders are. The first is Chris Urmson. He was the director of Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project. The second is Sterling Anderson. He was previously heading Tesla’s Autopilot program. And finally, Drew Bagnell. He was a founding member of Uber Technologies’ Advanced Technology Center. Bagnell is also an Associate Professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Bagnell has been appointed to the role of Chief Technical Officer in Aurora.
Tesla did not take Anderson’s leaving well. In fact, the electric car company filed a suit against him for breach of contract when he left the company in February 2017. However, in April 2017, Tesla dropped the lawsuit against him.
Aurora is not even a year old, and the company already has 70 employees and is aggressively hiring. An interesting value in the company website is that the company wants “no jerks”. The company states clearly that their work is cutting edge and dealing with hard technical problems. Time will not be wasted dealing with ego issues or personality clashes – these will not be tolerated in Aurora.
In relation to Aurora’s partnership with Hyundai and VW, the company is going to equip the two automakers’ vehicles with self-driving systems and software. The partnership also has large scale plans of running a test project in smart cities with Hyundai vehicles and experimenting with driverless shuttles and vans with VW. No financials about the project have been made public yet.
This is the first time that Volkswagen will be partnering with an outside organization to develop electric vehicles. So far, just like other German auto companies, VW has also preferred to work alone on developing technologies and know-how related to driverless and electric vehicles.
Now, VW and Aurora will focus on developing cars for the car maker’s electric ride-hailing network called Moia. Aurora has also been testing its patented self-driving systems and software on VW’s Audi Q7.
Aurora will work with Hyundai to co-develop autonomous electric cars that will be powered by fuel cells, stated Woongjun Jang, who is the South Korean car maker’s director of Advanced Driver Assistance System Dev. Group. Jang said that this vehicle was to be an SUV but that more details would only be revealed at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show slated to begin next week in Las Vegas. Jang also said that the company was hoping to launch it as part of a fleet service by 2021.