Aurora, the startup founded by Google self-driving car program alum Chris Urmson, has signed up two high-profile automaker partners despite its relative youth – both Volkswagen and Hyundai are planning to incorporate Aurora self-driving technology in production cars by 2021.
The Volkswagen is also hoping to put autonomous test cars on the road later this year, in a limited initial test, and then expand that to hundreds and then over one thousand test cars by 2020 ahead of the production rollout, per the Wall Street Journal. The plan for its initial deployment of production vehicles is then to field a fleet of self-driving cars in as many as five cities in a ride-hailing service, which is similar to how Ford, GM and Waymo all are looking to initially deploy their own self-driving programs.
Hyundai, too, is hoping to begin with driverless taxis in a service offering launching at “commercial scale” by 2021, per the WSJ. Using Aurora’s tech is only one way that the automakers hope to potentially make this happen, however, since the deal is non-exclusive, and both automakers revealed in the report that they’ve also been talking to Waymo about potential partnerships.
Aurora’s been working with Volkswagen for six months already, which, for a company this young, is a sign of how much appetite there is among automakers for technology enablers that can help them reach their self-driving goals. It also speaks to the country’s pedigree, since the founding team includes not only Urmson, but also former Tesla Autopilot architect Sterling Anderson and Uber advanced technologies group vet Drew Bagnell.