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 is vehicles and own and operate a taxi fleet. Other self-driving companies, including Uber, Zoox, and Voyage, are planning to take a similar approach.
This model relegates automakers—in Waymo’s case, Jaguar and Fiat Chrysler—to the role of anonymous suppliers. Aurora is taking a different approach—one that’s attractive to automakers who are accustomed to sitting at the apex of the automotive supply chain. Aurora aims to develop an autonomy stack it can license to car makers, allowing car makers to continue manufacturing and selling cars under their own brands.