BrandArena: Volkswagen Ends Partnership with Self-driving Car Startup Aurora

Thursday 13 June 2019

Volkswagen Ends Partnership with Self-driving Car Startup Aurora

Volkswagen has ended its partnership with self-driving car software firm Aurora, two days after the Silicon Valley startup said it would build autonomous platforms for commercial vehicles with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Aurora—a self-driving startup founded by former leaders of self-driving projects at Tesla, Uber, and Google’s Waymo—aims to make its self-driving technology an industry standard by licensing it to multiple car companies.

According to a report by the Financial Times, a spokesperson from VW confirmed the news, telling saying that “activities under our partnership have been concluded.” VW did not provide any further details.

Aurora didn’t provide any details either, accept to say VW Group has been a “wonderful partner” since its early days of development of its self-driving vehicle stack dubbed the Aurora Driver.

Aurora, a nearly three-year-old startup that has raised $530 million, develops and supplies the “full-stack solution” for self-driving vehicles. It has existing partnerships with Hyundai, Byton and more recently Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as well as several other unnamed companies, which it alluded to in its statement.

“As the Driver matures and our platform grows in strength, we continue to work with a growing array of partners who complement our expertise and expand the reach of our product,” Aurora said in a statement.

The partnership was not contentious and the initial agreement ended on good terms, two sources familiar with the deal between Aurora and VW. One source inferred to continued conversations between the two companies without providing any details.

In the end, what started out as a collaboration, ended up as misalignment in wants and needs.

The two companies had already been working together for six months before their joint January 2018 announcement, not long after Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell and Chris Urmson had left jobs at Tesla, Uber and Waymo to found Aurora.

When the partnership was finally announced, VW said the two companies were going to bring self-driving electric vehicles to cities as Mobility-as-a-Service fleets. It was an important early endorsement for Aurora and it showed VW was striking out beyond the confines of its massive company to seek out the latest innovations.

VW was going through its own internal changes as Herbert Diess took the CEO spot. And it appeared, based on insiders, that VW wanted more control over its autonomous vehicle program and possibly even ownership. Bloomberg reported in August 2018 that VW, in the hunt for autonomous vehicle technology, had tried to buy Aurora. The startup declined the offer over a desire to stay independent, according to the report.

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