Aurora, a self-driving car developer that was launched by former Waymo engineer Chris Urmson, is probably one of the most secretive Silicon Valley companies right now.
Unlike other self-driving car companies that enjoy the attention of the press and the buzz of social media, Aurora has kept its cards close to the chest. The company has for the last three years worked quietly and no one really knows what they have been doing. But things are about to change.
Aurora is expected to start making its creations public as it looks to gain a foothold in the self-driving car market. The Silicon Valley startup is competing with major tech and car companies including Waymo, which is owned by Google, Ford, GM, and others. After months of secretive operations, we are starting to learn some of the things Aurora has been doing behind the scenes.
For instance, we now know that the company acquired LIDAR, a sensor maker in the US. Aurora also received a sizable investment from Amazon and it has already hired a VP for hardware development.
This could indicate that the startup is already making great progress in developing its self-driving cars for the public, but that’s not all. Just recently, Aurora held a rare first press conference that gave journalists and reporters a sneak preview of the work it has been doing over the last few months.
The press conference was designed to showcase Aurora’s technology and was hosted by Urmson’s other co-founders Drew Bagnell and Sterling Anderson. Journalists didn’t only get to see the self-driving technology that Aurora is creating but also got the chance to partake in test drives for these vehicles. The cars look really sleek. Even though Anderson joked with reporters that they were “garbage” since they are just prototypes, they clearly aren’t.
It looks like Aurora has made a lot of progress, and it’s not a surprise. To date, the company has raised over $690 million in funding, a clear indication that there is a list of financial muscle and goodwill from Silicon Valley.
Urmson is also a big name in the self-driving car industry and brings a lot of experience and contacts to the table. In fact, Urmson has been considered the “Henry Ford” of autonomous vehicles, a huge title that clearly captures the significance of his contributions to this industry.
Additionally, the cofounders of Aurora also have a lot of experience and background in the self-driving car industry. For example, Sterling Anderson was one of the key figures in Tesla’s Model X development. Bagnell, on the other hand, is a Carnegie Mellon scholar who has had some experience working in the self-driving technology with Uber.
The team is solid and with all the funding they have, it is not hard to see why they are making some very promising progress in developing the first commercially viable self-driving cars. But so far, we are not sure how far along these models are or when they will hit the market.