Amazon drops huge chunk of change on self-driving auto tech


Thus far, Aurora has revealed that it is working with big-league automakers Hyundai and Volkswagen, as well as Chinese newcomer Byton, which has made a splash with its futuristic-looking cockpits and emphasis on bringing autonomous hardware to market quickly.

Amazon's investment, which an Aurora blog post terms "significant", comes as part of a Series B funding round of more than $530 million led by Sequoia. Aurora's leadership has a lot of experience in the automotive industry, too. "Over the last couple of years, we've met with more than 15 of the top autonomous vehicle companies from around the world", said Sequoia's Carl Eschenbach in an interview.

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. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round past year.

Aurora is led by Chris Urmson, former head of the Google self-driving vehicle initiative. It competes with companies like Alphabet's Waymo and Argo AI (Ford) and Cruise (GM).

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But despite the money pouring into the industry, the self-driving cars that are common on the streets of Silicon Valley are largely test vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel. The new $530 million round marks marks the first time the online retail giant has publicly invested in the self-driving vehicle market, which amounts to a significant endorsement.

Self-driving cars are not just for people- the technology can also move goods.

"Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive...whether it's in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we're excited about the possibilities", said a spokesperson from Amazon. The company is a leader in supply-chain automation and is vocal about pushing the envelope with new technology, such as drones, to carry out transportation and deliveries.