Tesla rival gets cash infusion from Amazon to develop self-driving cars
Self-driving Amazon deliveries could come from Aurora.
Self-driving Amazon deliveries could come from Aurora.
Image: Aurora

Watch out, Tesla. One of your rivals, Aurora, just got serious money from retail behemoth Amazon. 

Aurora isn’t just another self-driving tech company. Co-founder Sterling Anderson was the head of Tesla's Autopilot program and was sued by his former employer back in 2017 for allegedly taking information and engineers with him to his new company. The case eventually settled and Aurora paid Tesla $100,000.

Now, Amazon is one of several backers in a $530 million funding round announced Thursday for Aurora, which is based in Palo Alto but maintains a big presence in Pittsburgh.

Aurora doesn't build self-driving cars. It provides software for partners, including Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Chinese carmaker Byton — which promises vehicles capable of Level 4 autonomy by 2021. Last year Aurora secured the first state permit to test its vehicles throughout Pennsylvania, beating out Uber.

Now Amazon wants in on the action. Amazon's no stranger to autonomous technology. It just launched its own autonomous, electric robots to help deliver packages, and is transporting some cargo in self-driving trucks

In a statement, Amazon said autonomous vehicles could help its employees: “We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that. Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

In a bland statement about the unspecified Amazon investment, Aurora wrote on its blog, "Amazon’s unique expertise, capabilities, and perspectives will be valuable for us as we drive towards our mission."

Back in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had a team looking into ways to move all those Amazon products and packages in driverless cars. 

A quick look at Amazon’s job listings show that robotics, logistics, and automation are top priorities. Those autonomous delivery drones never took off, but driverless cars look like they could be coming relatively soon. 

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