Washington, DC (CNN Business)Uber sells its self-driving car unit to the automated technology company Aurora, completing a five-year stretch of self-driving cars that have been marred by lawsuits and a deadly accident.
What is Aurora?
Established in 2017, Aurora focuses on the development of the entire self-driving stack that is the underlying
technology that enables cars to navigate the roads and city streets without the help of a man.
Aurora has gained recognition and funding from leading businesses, management companies, and companies including Greylock Investors, Sequoia Capital, Amazon, and T.Rowe Price, partly on account of the pioneers of the autonomous vehicle industry, Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell, and Chris Urmson.
Despite the course of Uber ATG’s challenges, Urmson maintains that the organization has the talent and some interesting technologies to render its asset worthy. Uber will take a 26 percent interest in Aurora, spending $400 million in Silicon Valley-based start-up that produces autonomous vehicle tech and counts Amazon among its partners.
Chris Urmson, Aurora CEO, formerly headed Google’s self-driving vehicle initiative.
Uber and Aurora claim they set up a joint alliance to deploy Aurora-powered self-driving vehicles on the Uber platform.
Uber (UBER) established its self-driving activities in Pittsburgh in 2015, poaching 40 Carnegie Mellon University researchers.
The operation renamed Uber ATG (Advanced Technologies Group), will expand to over 1,000 employees later.
Uber thought it was important to create self-driving cars, as self-driving cars might make human-driven automobiles costly and obsolete.
But now Uber, who reduced 25 percent of his employees after the pandemic, wants the agreement to cut its expenses and lead to the venture becoming successful, minus those costs in 2021.
Uber extended its self-driving team in 2016 when he acquired Otto, a self-driving truck company co-founded by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski.
The Uber company has problems
Waymo, Google’s self-driving venture, sued Uber in February 2017, claiming trade secrets and infringement of intellectual property, and dismissed Levandowski from Uber that May after declining to collaborate with the company on the lawsuit.
The suit was resolved in February 2018, with Waymo in Uber shares earning around $245 million and Uber promising not to use confidential Waymo details.
Uber took another setback to his self-driving program a month later when one of his prototype cars killed a man in Tempe, Arizona.
A Uber test driver behind the wheel, who was to track the car and interfere if appropriate, watched a tv series on her smartphone. After the fatality, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey revoked Uber’s right to test on state roads, and Uber shut down its operations in May 2018.
Three hundred laid-off employees, but Uber resumed activities in San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the reckless driver for the accident but said Uber contributed to death with an inadequate safety culture.
Uber introduced major improvements after the NTSB credited fire.
It is the first tragedy reported by a completely self-driving car and a black eye for an industry that identified safety as one of its main factors.
Every year, over 35,000 Americans die on highways, and self-driving companies claim their technologies will significantly enhance safety.
Not all Uber staff at Uber ATG will transition to Aurora, including its CEO Eric Meyhofer. The transaction is scheduled to close in the first quarter of 2021. It can take months or even years for integrations to combine, which may hold back technical and organizational growth.
Aurora has embraced a work ethic of ”no jokes” and its business structure is going to attract plenty of new workers.
The collaboration would also provide Aurora a link with an automaker, Toyota, which has invested in Uber ATG. Although Aurora is designing sensors and self-driving car applications, the vehicles would require a collaborator. Competitors like Waymo, Cruise, and Argo AI have both made agreements with automakers. Toyota has not yet released a clarification.