Hyundai backs Aurora to develop driverless systems for Kia and Hyundai models

Key Points
  • Hyundai's investment in Aurora brings total funding in the start-up to at least $700 million.
  • Aurora and Hyundai plan to bring the start-up's self-driving technology to a wider range of Hyundai and Kia models.
  • The two previously partnered to bring the "Aurora Driver" to Hyundai's NEXO fuel-cell vehicles.
A Hyundai NEXO fuel cell vehicle with Aurora self-driving systems.

Hyundai Motor Group is investing in Aurora, a developer of self-driving technology for autos, with a plan to bring the systems to Hyundai and Kia models.

The companies have been working for the past year to develop and integrate the "Aurora Driver" into Hyundai's NEXO fuel cell vehicles as well as on other projects.

It's an extension of an existing partnership and furthers the work that large auto manufacturers are doing with developers of driverless technology. General Motors acquired Cruise in 2016, and Ford took a stake in the following year. Aurora still aims to provide autonomous systems to many different players.

On Monday, Aurora announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler to develop self-driving vehicles for corporate clients. It also works with Chinese electric vehicle maker Byton.

Aurora CEO Chris Urmson

In a statement, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer Sterling Anderson — previously the director of Autopilot programs at Tesla — said the company's aim with its partners is to "deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly." After reportedly failing to acquire Aurora last summer, Volkswagen concluded a partnership with the company on Tuesday.

Aurora employs lidar, or light ranging and detection sensors, as part of its autonomous systems. That's different than Tesla, which uses cameras and radar primarily to power its "full self-driving" and Autopilot features.

Led by CEO Chris Urmson, former technical lead of Google's self-driving efforts, Aurora has raised at least $700 million in funding. Other investors include Amazon, Greylock, Sequoia, Shell Energy's venture group and T. Rowe Price. The size of Hyundai's investment wasn't disclosed.

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