Amazon invests in autonomous vehicle startup Aurora

An Aurora self-driving Lincoln MKZ car is seen outside the company's office in the Lawrenceville neighborhood in Pittsburgh

Aurora, a startup tech company investing in self-driving vehicle technology, has announced that it has secured over $530 million in financing from a series of investors, including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, money manager T. Rowe Price Associates, and e-commerce giant Amazon. Other funding participants include funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Geodesic, Shell Ventures, and Reinvent Capital, as well as previous Aurora investors Greylock and Index Ventures.

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

The e-tail giant has made an unspecified investment in Aurora Innovation, a Palo Alto-based self-driving transportation startup. Investments past year from the SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co. pushed Cruise's valuation to US$14.6 billion. It marks Sequoia's first investment in the self-driving auto industry, and comes after the firm spent years of studying more than 15 self-driving vehicle companies across the globe, Eschenbach said.

Aurora is led by Chris Urmson, former head of the Google self-driving vehicle initiative. The company also set up a partnership with Toyota to find ways to use self-driving cars for deliveries. The technical problems and regulatory hurdles that remain are numerous and tricky.

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Aurora has kept a low profile and is in a more nascent research and development phase than some of its rivals.

Aurora said it now earns revenue through these partnerships, although it hasn't determined precisely how its business model will evolve once the technology is commercially ready. Sterling Anderson, Aurora's chief product officer, previously led Tesla Inc.'s Autopilot team, which developed driver-assistance technology for the electric-car maker.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon's investment in Aurora will help Amazon develop an autonomous supply chain network with self-driving vehicles to move packages and reduce the cost of deliveries.

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