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Amazon places interest in autonomous vehicles with investment

BY Dan Berthiaume

Amazon is taking its involvement with self-driving vehicles to a new level by funding a startup.

The e-tail giant has made an unspecified investment in Aurora Innovation, a Palo Alto-based self-driving transportation startup. Amazon’s investment, which an Aurora blog post terms “significant,” comes as part of a Series B funding round of more than $530 million led by Sequoia. Other funding participants include funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Geodesic, Shell Ventures, and Reinvent Capital, as well as previous Aurora investors Greylock and Index Ventures.

Aurora is publicly excited for Amazon’s financial participation in its mission to develop a self-driving platform it calls Aurora Driver. “Amazon’s unique expertise, capabilities, and perspectives will be valuable for us as we drive towards our mission,” states the Aurora blog.

Amazon has yet to publicly comment on the funding, but did refer to transportation and logistics services as competition in its recent 10-K filings. Aurora’s cofounder team has an impressive pedigree – CEO Chris Urmson is former CTO for self-driving cars at Google parent company Alphabet, while chief product officer Sterling Anderson led the design, development and launch of Tesla Model X, and CTO Drew Bagnell was a founding member at Uber’s Advanced Technology Center.

Whether it publicly comments on this specific investment or not, Amazon has a long-standing track record of involvement with autonomous vehicles. In addition to being a pioneer in piloting drone-based delivery, Amazon has received a patent for self-driving trucks. More recently, Amazon launched a pilot of “Scout,” a small, six-wheeled autonomous delivery device that travels on the sidewalk. And CNBC has reported Amazon is using self-driving cargo trucks on the I-10 highway which runs from California to Florida.

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