Volkswagen Joins Hand With Aurora Innovation To Build Self-Driving Cars

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Chris Urmson, formerly head of Google's self-driving auto program, announced Thursday that his new company Aurora has inked partnerships with Volkswagen Group and Hyundai aimed at helping both automakers accelerate their autonomous vehicle programs.

Hyundai Motor Company and Aurora, a provider of autonomous vehicle technology, are teaming up to bring self-driving Hyundai vehicles to market by 2021.

Over the past six months, specialists from the Volkswagen Group, have already been working intensively with experts from Aurora to integrate Auroras self-driving system including sensors, hardware and software, such as Machine Learning and AI technology in Volkswagen Groups vehicle platforms.

VW said that it wanted to develop ideas so that it could bring "self-driving cars to our roads quickly, broadly and safely".

Hyundai will be working the technology into its latest fuel cell vehicle, debuting next week at CES, while the Volkswagen Group says it could be incorporated into a number of its brands' vehicles, including self-driving Sedric pods, shuttles, delivery vans or trucks.

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Level 4 autonomous vehicles can operate without human input or oversight under select conditions.

Aurora's angle is that it's nicer to the vehicle makers than other self-driving specialists.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Volkswagen intends to develop seven test vehicles in 2018, with the goal of releasing hundreds more next year followed by over 1,000 by 2020.

The announcement comes on the same day the Volkswagen Group announced a similar partnership with Aurora. General Motors said in November that its self-driving vehicles will carry passengers and deliver goods in big cities by 2019.

Self-driving startup Aurora came on the scene in a precarious situation a year ago when the existence of the company was first made public through Tesla's lawsuit against Sterling Anderson, co-founder of the startup and the automaker's former director of Autopilot program.

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As for Aurora, it's a bit of a mystery, although we know it was founded by veterans from Google, Uber and Tesla.

"There is no overlap in competition with Aurora", he said. Meanwhile, Anderson completed a PhD in robotics at MIT and was previously in charge of development of Tesla's Autopilot self-driving system.

Aurora is using a mixture of robotics and machine learning to create vision systems and driving policy programs that allow computers to pilot a vehicle without people behind the wheel, as well as developing how those systems would work with lasers, radar and cameras to see and navigate the world.

"We have had what we've needed to build out our team aggressively, and now with these partnerships we'll be hiring aggressively across all spectrums", Anderson says.

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