Autonomous startup welcomes two manufacturers on board

13 June 2019

Autonomous startup welcomes two manufacturers on board

13 June 2019

Hyundai and Kia have become the latest automotive manufacturers to invest in self-driving software startup Aurora.

The two companies join Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in investing in the two-year-old US-based business, with both groups looking to speed up their autonomous vehicle development by finding technical partners to guide on software and systems.

Since its establishment, Aurora has quickly built up a market recognition for the development of self-driving technology. Its self-driving system, the Aurora Driver, comprises lidar, radar, and cameras that perceive the world around it and the computer that runs the software modules, enabling it to make sense of the world and plan a safe path through it. 

‘Aurora is the leading innovator of self-driving technology, and we look forward to building a stronger collaborative partnership with them,’ said Youngcho Chi, president and chief innovation officer at Hyundai Motor Group. ‘Working closely with industry leaders around the world will help us develop fully self-driving vehicles that are safe and innovative for our customers.’

Hyundai’s move will strengthen the strategic partnership formed between the companies in 2018, under which Hyundai, Kia, and Aurora have been collaborating on self-driving technologies on Hyundai’s NEXO fuel cell vehicle. With the new investment, the companies have agreed to expand research to a wide range of models and to build an optimal platform for Hyundai and Kia’s autonomous vehicles.

Italian agreement

FCA will also be working with Aurora to develop autonomous technology, with the Italian-US group looking to deploy systems on commercial vehicles, including the Fiat Professional line. The carmaker says that test vehicles could appear on roads within ‘three to five years’.

‘As part of FCA’s autonomous vehicle strategy, we will continue to work with strategic partners in this space to address the needs of consumers in a rapidly changing industry,’ said FCA CEO Mike Manley. ‘Aurora brings a unique skill set combined with advanced and purposeful technology that complements and enhances our philosophy on self-driving.’

For FCA, the partnership is the first to directly aim to bring autonomous technology into its product lines. The company does, however, have a supply agreement in the US with Waymo.

Investment lost

The news of two partnership agreements has come at the same time as Volkswagen Group (VW) announced it was ending its partnership with the autonomous software firm.

The German manufacturer announced a tie-up in 2018. Yet these activities have now been concluded according to the business, which initially wanted to buy the US firm but was rebuffed as Aurora wanted to maintain its independence.

The move comes as VW is expected to announce a tie-up with Ford for autonomous technology, which may also see it invest in Argo AI, another autonomous software developer owned by the US manufacturer.