Aurora, the startup founded by former senior engineer for Google's self-driving project Chris Urmson, is bringing its test vehicle fleet to Texas. It is the youngest company to move resources to the Lone Star State, which has quickly become a breeding ground for autonomous vehicle testing.
According to Aurora, a “small” fleet of vehicles will be brought to the Dallas-Fort Worth region in the next few weeks. The company is testing its autonomous vehicle hardware and software both in Chrysler Pacifica minivans – also popular with Urmson's former employers at Waymo (née Google) – and in class 8 tractor units. According to Aurora, the first commercial service will be in the truck sector "where the market is the largest today, the economy of the units is the best and the service requirements are the best".
Trucking is "where the market is today the largest".
"Regardless of whether a vehicle is moving people or goods, an investment in basic elements such as first-class perception, localization and movement planning cannot be avoided," says a statement by the company. “Our early focus on the complexity of surface driving accelerates our ability to handle the most difficult aspects of trucking. While this investment on the frontend takes some time, your payout should not be underestimated. "
The company has largely kept its technology under lock and key until recently. Aurora recently acquired a LIDAR sensor manufacturer, introduced its own LIDAR, hired a hardware vice president, and accepted an investment from Amazon. It also began to give reporters and members of the media test drives in their vehicles.
To date, Aurora has raised $ 690 million, and Urmson has been hailed as "Henry Ford of Autonomous Vehicles" thanks to his work as a pioneer of Google's self-driving car initiative. His co-founders are Sterling Anderson, who led Tesla's Model X project, and Drew Bagnell, who led a research laboratory at Carnegie Mellon and then worked on autonomous vehicles at Uber. Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and EV startup Byton are also Aurora customers. The company raised half a billion dollars in a financing round led by Amazon last year.
The company also had some setbacks. Last year, Volkswagen broke up with Aurora after entering into a collaboration agreement with Ford on electric and autonomous vehicles.
Texas is now one of the top states in the US for AV testing. In addition to Aurora, the state also hosts Ford / Argo, Uber, the self-driving truck startup TuSimple and Waymo, as well as a remote-controlled driverless shuttle at Texas A&M University. The AV startup Drive.ai was also active in the Dallas region before it went bankrupt and was taken over by Apple.