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Amazon enters self-driving vehicle market, invests in Aurora

(IMAGE: AURORA)

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) joined with capital venture firm Sequoia and T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ: TROW) to invest $530 million in self-driving vehicle startup Aurora Innovation according to Aurora’s press release on Medium.

Lightspeed Venture Partners, Geodesic, Shell Ventures (NYSE: RDS.A) and Reinvent Capital are also participating in the funding round along with previous Aurora investors Greylock and Index Ventures.

Sequoia led the Series B round of investment. “Fully autonomous driving is inevitable; just as machines replaced manual labor during the industrial revolution, they will replace cognitive labor during the information revolution,” said Carl Eschenbach, general partner of Sequoia capital operations. Eschenbach will also be joining Aurora’s board.

The Series B financing raises Aurora’s valuation to nearly $2.5 billion according to TechCrunch. Aurora is also hiring Jinnah Hosein, former head of software engineering at SpaceX, to lead its software engineering team.

“Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive,” an Amazon spokesperson said to Bloomberg, “whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon’s investment in Aurora will help Amazon develop an autonomous supply chain network with self-driving vehicles to move packages and reduce the cost of deliveries. Amazon’s annual delivery expenses rose 27 percent in 2018, pressing the company to invest in its own delivery services.

“Since we set out on our mission two years ago to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly and broadly, we have received an incredible amount of support and interest in the future we are building,” said Aurora’s press release.

Much of the funding support Aurora Innovation has received is based on its executive leadership, all of whom have experience/expertise at other self-driving companies. CEO Chris Urmson was with Google’s self-driving car program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, worked for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson helped lead Tesla’s Autopilot development.

Bloomberg also said that Aurora has partnered with Hyundai (OTC US: HYMTF), Volkswagen (OTC US: VWAPY) and Chinese electric vehicle startup Byton, which has received recognition for its futuristic-looking cockpits and a focus on bringing autonomous hardware to market quickly.

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