Former Google, Tesla, Uber Heads Form Self-Driving Car Company

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May 29, 2017—Aurora Innovation, headed by the former leader of Google's autonomous car team and the former director of Tesla Autopilot, is launching its own self-driving car company.

Chris Urmson, formerly of Google, and Sterling Anderson, formerly of Tesla, have partnered with Drew Bagnell, Uber's former autonomy and perception lead and now CTO of Aurora.

Aurora plans to develop the hardware, software, and data services necessary to build an autonomous driving platform—a similar approach to Uber and Waymo, the self-driving venture spun out of Google's parent company.

Aurora plans to work directly with Tier 1 suppliers to design the best sensors to feed the algorithms that will create the car brain. That involves taking on tech giants when it comes to designing complex hardware like LiDAR (light detection and ranging), a key sensor that helps vehicles detect objects, which has become the focal point of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo.

Aurora is still in early stages, however, and is currently hiring and collecting data with an Audi Q7.

Anderson told Business Insider that Aurora is not looking to get acquired by automakers.

"We’re not for sale," Anderson said. "We intend to enable the entire industry and we wouldn't be able to do that if we were owned by a single OEM."

Aurora plans to work directly with automakers through non-exclusive partnerships, Anderson said.

Aurora was officially formed in January and was operating in stealth mode until a Tesla lawsuit broke news of the venture's existence. The lawsuit, which alleged Anderson had poached Tesla employees to work at Aurora, was settled in April.

The startup has $6.5 million so far to work with through self-funding and a small financing round. The company plans to launch a Series A at some point this year.


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