Self-Driving Car Startup Aurora Could Start a ‘Renaissance in the Transportation Industry’

February 28, 2018, 1:01 PM UTC

Self-driving vehicle startup Aurora Innovation has raised $90 million from Greylock Partners and Index Ventures and gained two board members, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, as the company prepares to ramp up its operations.

Hoffman, who is a partner at Greylock, will also be joined on the board by Mike Volpi, former chief strategy officer at Cisco (CSCO) and general partner at Index Ventures.

“We believe that Aurora and the technology it is building will bring about renaissance in the transportation industry—a return to the days when cars were the cutting edge, and when getting from A to B was something to be enjoyed,” Volpi wrote in a blog post on Medium.

Aurora was founded by Sterling, Anderson, Drew Bagnell, and Chris Urmson, highly regarded veterans of autonomous vehicle research who led development programs at Google (GOOG), Tesla (TSLA), and Uber (UBER). Hoffman first met Urmson when he was leading Google’s self-driving project, which later spun out to a company called Waymo. The two kept in touch, and when Urmson floated the idea of starting Aurora, Hoffman expressed interest.

“I told him at that moment that when the timing was right, I would love to invest and help the company grow,” Hoffman wrote in a blog post on Medium.

Aurora, which launched in January 2017, works with automakers to design and develop a package of sensors, software, and data services—the “full stack,” in industry parlance—needed to deploy fully autonomous vehicles. The company is focused on Level 4 autonomous systems with an eye toward Level 5. (Level 4 is a designation by SAE International, the automotive engineering association, for autonomous vehicles that take over all driving in certain conditions. In Level 5 autonomy, the vehicle is self-driving in all situations.)

The company operated largely in secret until last month, when it made a flurry of announcements at CES, the annual tech trade show in Las Vegas, including partnerships with Volkswagen (VLKAY) and Hyundai (HYMTF).

Volkswagen and Aurora have been working together for months to integrate the startup’s self-driving systems in custom-designed electric shuttles for VW’s new Moia brand. Volks­wagen plans to launch two types of test fleets using Aurora tech in 2018: one for ride-pooling using Moia shuttles, the other for door-to-door ride-hailing service in the U.S. and Germany.