Hyundai Motor Group is investing more money in Aurora, expanding its partnership with the Silicon Valley self-driving start-up to develop autonomous cars.
The South Korean parent of Hyundai and Kia is joining Aurora’s series B financing round. Aurora declined to disclose the amount of Hyundai’s investment, but said the round has now raised more than $600m, including $530m originally announced in February and new investments from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and asset manager Baillie Gifford. The round was led by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, and included participation from Amazon in the ecommerce company’s biggest push yet into autonomous technology.
Aurora will expand its research and development efforts to make its driving software work with several Hyundai and Kia models. Hyundai is aiming to launch a pilot fleet of autonomous taxis by 2021.
“Aurora is the leading innovator of self-driving technology and we look forward to building a stronger collaborative partnership with them. Working closely with industry leaders around the world will help us develop fully self-driving vehicles that are safe and innovative for our customers,” said Youngcho Chi, Hyundai president and chief innovation officer.
The funding announcement came a day after the Financial Times reported that Volkswagen, one of Aurora’s first carmaker partners, had ended its relationship with the start-up.
Aurora, founded in 2016 by veterans of the self-driving projects within Tesla, Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo, has taken a collaborative approach to developing driverless vehicles. It has struck a series of deals with carmakers to integrate its sensors and software into their cars, and is testing on public roads in Pennsylvania and California.
Its newest partner, announced this week, is Fiat Chrysler, which is also working with Waymo on self-driving cars. Aurora also has a partnership with Byton, a Chinese electric vehicle start-up.
Last year, Hyundai said it would invest $21bn in electric cars, autonomous vehicles and related technology in a push to catch up on emerging trends. Traditional automakers have forged a wide range of partnerships with each other, big technology companies and start-ups in an effort to get ahead in the capital-intensive development of autonomous driving.
Aurora is among a handful of companies that have raised huge amounts of capital to fund the race to get autonomous vehicles on to public roads. General Motors’ Cruise division raised $1.5bn at a $19bn valuation in May from mutual fund manager T Rowe Price and existing investors SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Honda and GM. The previous month, Uber secured a $1bn investment in its self-driving unit from Toyota, the Vision Fund and the Japanese car parts supplier Denso.
Waymo, which is widely recognised as the furthest ahead in the field, is piloting a commercial taxi service in Arizona.
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