LAS VEGAS — One year ago, three self-driving veterans came together to work on autonomous cars, bringing a certain amount of name recognition and firepower to their budding business.
The new company, Aurora Innovation, had its coming-out party at CES last week. The self-driving startup founded by self-driving executives from Tesla, Google and Uber is developing a Level 4 to Level 5 autonomous vehicle platform with automakers that will support the transition to new technologies.
Building platforms instead of cars is not an entirely new business strategy. That is at least part of the business plan at Waymo, the Google subsidiary leading the self-driving space. But it's not a business plan with a strong track record. At least not yet.
"It was an unproven hypothesis when we started," Sterling Anderson, Aurora's chief product officer, told Automotive News. But Anderson said the company can tell automakers are interested in this collaborative process. "It's been validated by the number of partnerships we've formed."
Aurora, which launched early last year, has been operating in relative silence. Aurora was jolted out of stealth mode in January 2017 when Tesla sued Anderson, the former head of Tesla's Autopilot, and Chris Urmson, the startup's CEO and former director of Google's self-driving project, accusing them of stealing company trade secrets. The suit was dropped less than three months later after the parties came to an agreement. And then Aurora went quiet again.
Aurora went into CES announcing partnerships with Volkswagen and Hyundai.
"Over the course of the last year, we've been building the team, the technology and a set of partnerships with world-class companies who share our vision," Anderson said. "With our Volkswagen work now reaching advanced stages of integration and the Hyundai partnership underway, we felt it was the right time to start to pull back the curtain."