California regulators have approved Aurora’s use of self-driving vehicles to transport passengers,media outlet TechCrunch reported. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a license to Aurora, which has been issued on its website to participate in the state’s pilot program for self-driving car passenger services. Aurora confirmed the approval.
Asked about the permit, an Aurora spokesman said: “This permit allows us to provide travel services provided by Aurora Driver and demonstrates our commitment to being a good partner for California and the Council.” “The company did not provide more details on when passengers would begin to be transported. Based on the information provided by the company, this may not become a wide range of robotaxi services.
Aurora never planned to operate the robotaxi service. Instead, it focuses on building the autopilot stack and integrating it into the vehicle platform with partners. The company, known as the Aurora Driver, has been integrated into six vehicle platforms of several manufacturers, including cars, SUVs, minivans, commercial trucks and Class 8 trucks. These integrations are not commercial.
Aurora has operations in Pittsburgh, Palo Alto and San Francisco, and has a fleet of about a 12 self-driving cars for testing on public roads. The company began testing its self-driving system on Chrysler Pacifica minivans and said it would continue to expand the fleet next year.
Aurora attracted early attention thanks to its three founders – Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell and Chris Urmson – who led self-driving car projects at Google, Tesla and Uber. In February 2019, the company raised more than $530 million in a round of B-financing led by Sequoia Capital, including from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates’s “significant investment.” The round of financing valued Aurora at more than $2.5 billion. To date, the company has raised more than $620 million.
The CPUC approval differs from the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ license to test self-driving cars in the state. Today, 65 companies have obtained DMV permits to test self-driving cars on the state’s public roads. Only four other companies – AutoX, Pony.ai, Waymo and Zoox – currently have CPUC licenses. Zoox was the first company to be licensed.
The CPUC license grants Aurora the license to use its self-driving vehicles to transport people. The license comes with some warnings. Licensed companies can’t charge for ride-hailing services – a rule that self-driving vehicle developers are lobbying for to change – and vehicles must be equipped with safe drivers. In addition, the company must obtain a testing license for the DMV.
Aurora’s license is valid until January 2023 and requires the company to provide the CPUC with a report containing information about the total mileage and safety agreements for the journey.