Amazon moves into driverless cars with investment in United States start-up Aurora

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

The new funding brings Aurora's valuation to more than $2.5 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The stature of its founders has allowed Aurora to attract top talent, with more than 250 people split between the San Francisco Bay Area and Pittsburgh, as well as interest from investors and partners.

"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", said Aurora's press release.

Those self-driving frontrunners are making their own moves.

Aurora doesn't build self-driving cars. Investments past year from the SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co. pushed Cruise's valuation to $14.6 billion. Even Waymo's robotaxi service in Arizona still has trained backup drivers inside.

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Aurora Innovation appears to have attracted much of that funding on the strength of its self-driving tech superstar co-founders, who include CEO Chris Urmson, formerly of Google's self-driving vehicle program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, formerly of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson, who helped lead the development of Tesla's Autopilot. The case eventually settled and Aurora paid Tesla $100,000. Amazon could use this for self-driving cargo and courier vehicles, reducing its need for human drivers (like it or not) and speeding up delivery times by keeping products moving around the clock.

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

"Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive", an Amazon spokesperson said to Bloomberg, "whether it's in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we're excited about the possibilities".

Autonomous driving is one of the most capital intensive startup businesses, and such a large sum of money is critical for Aurora to remain competitive in a field crowded with well-funded players such as Alphabet Inc and General Motors Co.

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