Self-driving system supplier Aurora Innovation is pursuing a strategy that differs from what some advanced-tech firms are doing.
While many are seeking partnerships with established automakers in hopes of defraying the enormous cost of product development, Aurora is striving for independence, CEO Chris Urmson said during the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars last week.
The company has resisted efforts over the years to tie itself too closely to any one automaker partner.
Urmson said it is a strategy borrowed from another corner of the transportation industry: jet engine manufacturers.
"If you are a major airline, and you decide you want to buy or lease an aircraft, you have a conversation with Airbus or Boeing," Urmson said. "But you also say you want Pratt & Whitney or GE engines.
"So you have a 787 with Pratt & Whitney engines, and they work with Boeing to design and integrate them into the airframe."
Urmson's comments are some of the most revealing insight into Aurora's strategy the CEO has provided since Aurora and Volkswagen ended a self-driving vehicle-development partnership last year. Since then, Aurora has deployed its self-driving system on eight vehicle platforms, from compact electric vehicles to minivans to Class 8 trucks.
Equipping one system onto such disparate vehicles isn't as difficult as it may seem, Urmson said. The hard part of the technology is to distill a picture of the world around a vehicle and detect obstacles.