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Aurora Innovation self-driving startup scores big Amazon investment

The e-commerce giant's motivations regarding autonomous tech remain a mystery.

Even if you're a car buff, you may not have heard of Aurora Innovation, but with news that the company has raised in excess of $530 million from some major Silicon Valley players, you're likely to read about them a lot more from now on. 

The self-driving vehicle startup has just announced that it's scored significant Series B financing support from a block of investors led by Sequoia Capital, a big-name venture capital firm that counts Amazon and T. Rowe Price among its backers. According to a new company blog post on Medium, Shell Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Geodesic are among the other parties aboard this fundraising round.

Aurora Innovation appears to have attracted much of that funding on the strength of its self-driving tech superstar co-founders, who include CEO Chris Urmson, formerly of Google's self-driving car program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, formerly of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson, who helped lead the development of Tesla's Autopilot.

A Lincoln outfitted with Aurora Innovation's self-driving hardware navigates a tunnel.

Aurora Innovation

Thus far, Aurora has revealed that it is working with big-league automakers Hyundai and Volkswagen, as well as Chinese newcomer Byton, which has made a splash with its futuristic-looking cockpits and emphasis on bringing autonomous hardware to market quickly. Yet it's Amazon's new financial interest in this company that's likely to spark the most interest: There have been murmurs that the e-commerce giant is interested in everything from self-driving delivery vehicles to new-car retailing, but the company has thus far remained low-profile in its movements.

When reached for comment by Roadshow, an Amazon spokesperson shared this statement: 

"We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that. Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it's in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we're excited about the possibilities."

Aurora Innovation Lincoln test cars

Aurora Innovation's future looks markedly brighter after scoring $530M in funding.

Aurora Innovation

Aurora Innovation is developing a full self-driving program from soup to nuts, including hardware, software and data-collection and -distribution tech. The latter is seen not only as a linchpin when it comes to safety, but also to the monetization potential of future self-driving vehicles, be they conventional passenger cars, commercial vehicles or last-mile delivery robots.

This Series B round values Aurora at over $2.5 billion. The company presently employs around 250 workers split between its Bay Area and Pittsburgh campuses.