Aurora, a start-up founded by Chris Urmson, a former chief engineer of Google’s self-driving project, is bringing its test fleet to Texas,media reported. It’s the latest company to shift resources to the Lone Star state, which is fast becoming a hot spot for self-driving car testing. Aurora said it will bring a “small” team to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the coming weeks.
The company will test the hardware and software of its self-driving cars on Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Class 8 semi-trailers. Chrysler Pacifica’s former employer, Waymo, is also popular. Aurora said their first commercial service would be in trucking, “which is currently the largest market, with the best unit economic stakes and the best level of service demand.” “
“Whether the vehicle is used to transport people or cargo, it cannot avoid investing in the underlying elements of world-class awareness, localization and motion planning,” the company said in a statement. Our early focus on the complexity of road driving on the ground accelerated our ability to deal with the most difficult aspects of trucking. While this investment will take time, its returns cannot be underestimated. “
It was only recently that the company began to show off its technology. Recently, Aurora acquired a maker of lidar sensors, launched its own in-house lidar, hired a vice president of hardware and took an investment from Amazon. The company has also begun to let journalists and media people test its vehicles.
Aurora has raised $690 million so far, and Urmson has been dubbed “Henry Ford in self-driving cars” for helping Google pioneer self-driving cars. His co-founders were Sterling Anderson, who helped lead the Tesla Model X project, and Drew Bagnell, who later left Carnegie Mellon University to take charge of self-driving cars. Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and electric vehicle start-up Byton are also Aurora customers. The company raised $500 million in a round of Amazon-led financing last year.
However, the company has also suffered some setbacks. Last year, Volkswagen chose to part ways with Aurora after agreeing with Ford to develop electric and self-driving cars.