Ex-Google, Tesla, and Uber Leaders Join Forces With One Goal In Mind:
Change The World
One day, you could walk out of your front door and step into a car that drives itself.
On your morning commute, instead of sitting in the front seat and staring at the miles of traffic ahead, you could instead read a book or get a jump start on your work day. Or sleep.
The future world of self-driving vehicles offers an exciting list of benefits for passengers. The challenge, however, lies in proving that autonomous driving is safer and better.
There are many companies vying to be the first to successfully commercialize autonomous vehicles, but none more interesting than the Palo Alto-based Aurora Innovation.
Founded in late 2016 by a trio of Silicon Valley superstars, Chris Urmson, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell, Aurora works with automakers to design and deploy self-driving technology. Originally operating in secret, the company is now in the spotlight after announcing several deals with big-time companies and raising a significant amount of capital earlier this year.
Aurora May Be Late To The Game But They Started With Major Points On The Board
Aurora is an engineering-focused company that aims to partner with automakers who are aggressively pursuing a future where self-driving vehicles rule the road.
The company develops sensors and software that help autonomous vehicles choose the best path forward. Currently, the company is focused on developing Level 4 systems which are considered to be “high automation.” Level 4 vehicles can brake, steer, accelerate and monitor surroundings on their own. However, these systems do not allow vehicles to drive under certain conditions such as in traffic or while merging onto the highway.
Eventually, the company would like to develop Level 5 systems which boast “complete automation.” Vehicles with Level 5 systems do not require any human attention in order to get safely from one destination to another.
Aurora believes it has the brainpower, experience, and network to move more rapidly than other players chasing the same dream.
“That’s the goal for Aurora, to get self-driving cars on the road as quickly as possible and do that safely and thoughtfully and do it through partnerships with folks that can help us,”
says founder Urmson.
Aurora’s self-driving vehicles first hit public roads in September 2017, less than a year after the company’s founding.
Given the leaders at the helm, recruiting is unlikely to slow down any time soon.
Founded By Self-driving Technology Legends
Aurora was founded by Chris Urmson, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell, a trio of Silicon Valley veterans with deep experience in the self-driving technology space.
Prior to Aurora, Urmson led Google’s self-driving project now known as Waymo, Anderson ran Tesla’s Autopilot team, and Bagnell worked at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center as head of perception and autonomy.
Towards the end of 2016, these three announced that they were joining forces which sent shockwaves throughout the Bay Area. The team quickly retreated into the shadows until earlier this year when they burst back onto the scene with several major partnership announcements.
The company is now working closely with Hyundai, Volkswagen, and Chinese manufacturer, Byton, to develop autonomous driving software for select vehicle lines. Hyundai and Volkswagen are targeting 2021 to have self-driving, commercial vehicles on the road that use Aurora’s technology.
The company also recently completed a Series A funding round in which Greylock Partners and Index Ventures co-invested $90M.
“Aurora is best positioned to lead this transformation, because of the caliber of the team, its unique technology and its deep partnerships with existing car manufacturers.”
-Mike Volpi, Index Ventures
Interestingly, the founding team has focused heavily on recruiting talented people who are also good human beings. In fact, one of the company’s core values is “no jerks.”
“We’re serious about working alongside people whose values and motivations you can trust,” adds Anderson.
It’s evident that this mentality flows freely from top to bottom within the organization.
“Great partnerships are built on trust. Aurora is a very trustworthy team,” said Volkswagen’s Chief Digital Officer, Johann Jungwirth.
The Value of Character
This Untold story highlights the power and value of having a strong reputation, both in terms of execution and character. Aurora’s superstar trio had instant credibility in the market given their past experiences with major innovators in the self-driving space. Since its founding, the leadership team has also placed a premium on hiring talented, trustworthy people.
The combination of these factors is what has helped Aurora land major deals and capital. The future is bright for this small, nimble company that is trying to run with powerhouses the founding team left behind.
Remember, your resume and credentials aren’t everything, but they are important. Building a strong reputation and treating people well may be what helps you land your next big contract or client!