Hyundai and Volkswagen team with Google's former self-driving lead


Aurora has been a much-watched startup because it was founded by three of Silicon Valley's most famous self-driving engineers: former Google self-driving vehicle project head Chris Urmson; the former head of Tesla Autopilot, Sterling Anderson; and former Uber self-driving star engineer Drew Bagnell.

You've probably never heard of Aurora but you'll definitely know the key people behind it if you've been following the progress of self-driving vehicle development: Aurora was founded in 2016 by Chris Urmson, Drew Bagnell and Sterling Anderson.

Hyundai Motor has partnered with the U.S. startup Aurora, which develops sensors and software for autonomous vehicles, with a plan to commercialize a level-four self-driving system by 2021, the South Korean carmaker said on January 5.

Urmson, a former Carnegie Mellon robotics researcher, headed the Google Self-Driving Car Project (now Waymo) until 2015.

This is the first partnership that Hyundai has formed for the development of a self-driving system, marking a shift in the company's previous strategy of developing the system on its own, officials said.

Aurora might be tiny by every measure, but these comparative giants are counting on the company to help bring commercial self-driving vehicles to world faster.

Fueled by a brain trust of former Google, Tesla and Uber executives, Volkswagen and Hyundai announced Thursday that they are joining forces to tackle the emerging market of self-driving cars.

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Aurora started testing a fleet of autonomous vehicles a year ago in Pittsburgh.

Hyundai's new FCV to debut at CES 2018 Hyundai Motors states that the partnership with Aurora is part of its ongoing efforts towards realising fully autonomous driving. General Motors said in November that its self-driving vehicles will carry passengers and deliver goods in big cities by 2019.

Aurora and VW engineers have been working together for the past six months to test the start-up's software and hardware, Urmson says.

The announcement serves as something of a redemption for Urmson who left Google in 2016 without a formal plan. "We don't waste time battling over personalities and egos and we have no tolerance for time-wasters and nonsense", says the Aurora website.

Aurora has offices in Palo Alto, Calif., and Pittsburgh, the latter both to accommodate self-driving auto experts "who might not be interesting in moving to Silicon Valley and for us to be able to test cars in tougher weather", says former Tesla engineer Anderson, who declined to detail Aurora's financing.

Hyundai said it hopes to have autonomous cars on the market by the start of the next decade while VW did not specify any particular date for a roll-out. "This was about bringing together the right team to do this the right way for the industry".