The company is run by Chief Executive Chris Urmson, a roboticist from Carnegie Mellon University, who helped found Google's self-driving vehicle program in 2009 and led it after Sebastian Thrun left in 2014.
The non-exclusive partnerships mark the first deals for the young Silicon Valley company and show how some carmakers have chosen to partner with technology companies with more experience in artificial intelligence, deep learning and robotics in order to save time and money bringing self-driving cars to market.
Buttressing Volkswagen's engineering team with Aurora makes sense given the current autonomous vehicle gold rush, VW Group Chief Digital Officer Johann Jungwirth said. You may not recognize the name Aurora yet, but you probably recognize the name of its CEO, Chris Urmson, who was the CTO of self-driving cars at Google for several years.
As for Hyundai, the automaker reports this move puts it on path to release self-driving cars to the market by 2021. As per the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE), definition of a Level 4 autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that can operate without human input or oversight under select conditions.
Aurora might be tiny by every measure, but these comparative giants are counting on the company to help bring commercial self-driving vehicles to world faster.
Aurora is just one of a flood of new start-ups focusing on autonomous vehicle systems, as well as more familiar auto suppliers like Continental and Aptiv - the recently renamed Delphi.
At first, the vehicles will be tested in pilot programs, with the goal of establishing how a Mobility-as-a-Service, or MaaS, transportation system might work.
Volkswagen and Aurora will develop cars for Moia, the German automaker's electric ride-hailing network, and the startup has been testing its self-driving systems with the Audi Q7 model, Jungwirth said.
Aurora was started by Urmson, Sterling Anderson and Drew Bagnell, an all-star lineup of self-driving gurus.
"This tech is not easy, and not everyone will get across the finish line", Urmson says.
This year the company will have the global debut of its latest new-generation fuel-cell vehicle at CES 2018, which opens in Las Vegas on January 7.
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