Hyundai self-driving deal points to industry-wide pattern

Hyundai self-driving deal points to industry-wide pattern

Enlarge (credit: Hyundai)

It has been a busy week for Aurora, the self-driving startup founded by veterans of the Google, Tesla, and Uber self-driving programs. On Monday, Aurora announced it had forged a partnership with Fiat Chrysler. On Tuesday, Aurora said it was ending its partnership with Volkswagen. Now Hyundai is deepening its partnership with Aurora with an equity investment.

It’s the latest example of an industry-wide pattern: one after another, car companies have made big investments in self-driving startups. And these deals mean that carmakers are effectively entering into self-driving alliances with one another.

Some carmakers are taking big stakes in self-driving projects

General Motors started the process back in 2016, buying self-driving startup Cruise for more than $500 million. In 2018, GM sold a modest stake in Cruise to Honda, cementing a self-driving alliance between the two companies.

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Volkswagen snubs self-driving startup Aurora, eyes Ford partnership

Volkswagen snubs self-driving startup Aurora, eyes Ford partnership

Enlarge / Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, talks to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess in January 2019. (credit: Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Aurora—a self-driving startup founded by former leaders of self-driving projects at Tesla, Uber, and Google’s Waymo—aims to make its self-driving technology an industry standard by licensing it to multiple car companies.

The company has made impressive progress securing automotive partners. On Monday, Aurora announced that it had scored a new partnership with Fiat Chrysler to develop self-driving commercial vehicles. That was in addition to existing deals with Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Chinese electric carmaker Byton.

On Tuesday, however, the Financial Times reported a significant setback: Volkswagen was ending its deal with Aurora.

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How self-driving startup Aurora is wooing carmakers

How self-driving startup Aurora is wooing carmakers

Enlarge / AUSTIN, Texas – MARCH 09: Chris Urmson speaks onstage at Featured Session: Self-Driving Cars: The Future is When? with Malcolm Gladwell & Chris Urmson during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 9, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Samantha Burkardt/Getty Images for SXSW) (credit: Samantha Burkardt/Getty Images for SXSW)

The self-driving startup Aurora is less than three years old, and it has yet to demonstrate its technology publicly. But the company, founded by former leaders of the Google, Uber, and Tesla self-driving projects, has assembled an impressive roster of customers. On Monday, the company announced that Fiat Chrysler was the latest automaker to become an Aurora partner.

Most self-driving companies are aiming to build vertically integrated taxi services. Google’s Waymo, for example, is planning to offer driverless rides in the Phoenix suburbs. Waymo is planning to design the hardware and software for

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Two self-driving startups team up to build a different kind of lidar

Two self-driving startups team up to build a different kind of lidar

Enlarge / Four Blackmore lidar units sit atop a demo vehicle in Washington DC. (credit: Timothy B. Lee)

Fresh from a $530 million fundraising round earlier this year, self-driving startup Aurora made a big bet on lidar last week. The company—founded by veterans of Tesla and of Google’s self-driving car projects—scooped up a Montana-based lidar startup called Blackmore.

Lidar sensors have a lot in common with fiber-optic communications gear. Both work by sending out information encoded in light, then recapturing it and interpreting the information it contains.

Blackmore’s leaders have deep ties to the optical telecom industry, and the company aims to pack more and more components of its lidar sensors into photonic integrated circuits that have been pioneered in the optical telecom sector. These circuits are expensive to design but affordable to manufacture at scale. Earlier this year, Blackmore’s most powerful lidar sensors cost as much as $20,000. But

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