Startup Aurora gets $530 mln boost to build self-driving cars

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

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) joined with capital venture firm Sequoia and T. Rowe Price Group Inc (NASDAQ: TROW) to invest $530 million in self-driving vehicle startup Aurora Innovation according to Aurora's press release on Medium.

Additional investors included Lightspeed Venture Partners, Geodesic, Shell Ventures and Reinvent Capital.

The Series B financing raises Aurora's valuation to almost $2.5 billion according to TechCrunch. Eschenbach will take a seat on the startup's board. Founded in 2016, the company is led by former Google Self-Driving Car Project chief Chris Urmson, Chris Urmson, one of the creators of Google's self-driving car project, Waymo, former Tesla autopilot chief, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell, a co-founder of Uber's self-driving car unit. So, even if Amazon is agnostic about the vehicles it hopes to implement in the future, partnering with a company like Aurora for its transportation network development would probably work well with its current direction due to Aurora's multi-platform software.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is building autonomous vehicle technology.

Most recently, the company invested in Balyo, a French-based autonomous vehicle navigation company which is able to turn forklifts into self-driving vehicles- meaning the warehouses can operate with fewer manual workers. Investments previous year from the SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co. pushed Cruise's valuation to US$14.6 billion.

In California alone, over 60 companies have DMV permits to test autonomous vehicles on the roads (most commonly with safety drivers in attendance), although the burgeoning industry is still dominated by cash-rich giants like Alphabet Inc. and GM.

Aurora is among dozens of startups, automakers and large technology companies working on self-driving auto systems, eager to capitalize on a sea change in the transportation industry brought by developments in machine learning.

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