Tesla's self-driving auto rival gets big money from Amazon

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

Even if you're a auto buff, you may not have heard of Aurora Innovation, but with news that the company has raised in excess of $530 million from some major Silicon Valley players, you're likely to read about them a lot more from now on.

The self-driving startup led by ex-Tesla and ex-Google executives, Aurora Innovation, Inc. has landed $530 million dollars in funding after a successful second investment round, and one of its most notable contributors was Amazon. The startup has remained fiercely independent, cultivating partnerships with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Byton while designing a suite of software, hardware and data services created to support a range of automakers and transportation networks. While Volkswagen plans to integrate the self-driving technology in its vehicles, Hyundai wants to commercialize level 4 autonomous vehicles (which can operate without human input or oversight under select conditions) by 2021. Bagnell was a founder member of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Centre and Uber's Advanced Technology Centre. Embark also received significant funding from Sequoia previous year and has raised $47 million overall to date.

Sequoia led the Series B round of investment.

The funding round was led by venture capital firm Sequoia, whose partner Carl Eschenbach will join Aurora's board. As described by the Aurora team in a blog piece published on Medium, "Moreover, all Aurora-powered vehicles carry a common set of self-driving hardware and run the same self-driving software, allowing Aurora and its partners to benefit from the collective scale of all participants...learn [ing] from the combined experience of all vehicles on the platform".

Aurora Innovation is developing a full self-driving program from soup to nuts, including hardware, software and data-collection and -distribution tech. The latter is seen not only as a linchpin when it comes to safety, but also to the monetization potential of future self-driving vehicles, be they conventional passenger cars, commercial vehicles or last-mile delivery robots.

Amazon did not reveal how much it had invested but said it could use driverless vehicle systems in package delivery or in its warehouses.

This year will mark a public test for some of the early leaders in driverless technology.

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