Aurora, started by ex-Google, Tesla employees is touted to be the world’s hottest driverless-car startup.

Hyundai VW partner with driverless car startup Aurora to develop self-driving system Image source: Twitter
Atom Self-Driving Technology Monday, January 08, 2018 - 16:38
Written by  S. Mahadevan

In what could be a game changer in the autonomous car space, 3 former executives associated with the technology have now joined hands independently, have tied up with Hyundai and Volkswagen. Through these tie-ups, they will help these automakers launch their driver-less vehicles, posing a challenge to the existing players led by Tesla Inc. The new outfit, named Aurora, is a startup and has Chris Urmson, Sterling Anderson and Drew Bagnell on board. At least two of them have worked at different levels on driverless car technology.

While Urmson used to be with Google’s project which has since been renamed Waymo, Anderson was with Tesla working on the Autopilot project and the last named, is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute and a founding member of Uber Technologies Inc.’s Advanced Technologies Center.

Their combined knowledge and experience would amount to a formidable force in this technology and it is therefore no wonder that an auto giant like Volkswagen AG, having already committed billions on internally developing the autonomous car, has signed up with the Aurora team for developing the Audi Q7 into a self-driven model. In the case of Hyundai, the focus will be on developing an electric car that has the self-driving technology and will be run on fuel cells. The projects will aim at developing vehicles which would be deployed in taxi services, robotic deliveries and even in-car advertising.

While companies like Tesla and Google have been working on the AI-based technologies to develop autonomous cars, Hyundai and VW have not been very aggressive till now and will use the Aurora association to get ahead in the game and make up the time lost. The announcement on the partnerships have, in fact, come from the two automakers and indicates how much they value the opportunity they have created for themselves.

The startup has already recruited over 70 people to work on these projects and they have gone quite aggressive with the way the company is run and managed. As their website declares, "We debate and solve hard technical problems. We don’t waste time battling over personalities and egos and we have no tolerance for time-wasters and nonsense".

The arrangements with the 2 companies will see them building the software and systems around their existing basic models and deliver driverless vehicles. The financial aspects of the tie-ups have not been shared. Besides developing the vehicles of their own brands, Aurora and Volkswagen will work on developing cars for their customers also; the German electric ride-hailing network, Moia is looking to gain from this association. Similarly, in the case of Hyundai, there will be some path-breaking work with the application of the technology. Some of these developments may get showcased in the upcoming CES 2018 at Las Vegas.