The Volkswagen Group has terminated its partnership with Aurora Innovation, the start-up in charge of self-reliance founded by Chris Urmson, former head of Google's self-driving, at Financial Times. Aurora was supposed to provide Volkswagen with a complete technological stack and called the "pilot", which would allow completely autonomous cars, not a driver assistance system (like what is available on Audi cars).
Volkswagen was one of the first clients of Aurora. Both companies announced the agreement at the 2018 consumer electronics showalthough they have been working together for at least a year. The agreement was due to end in June, according to the family of two, and Volkswagen refused to sign a new contract.
To continue its momentum, Volkswagen would have concluded a new contract with start-up Argo AI, supported by Ford. Volkswagen and Ford announced a "global alliance" in January It is centered on trucks and vans, although both companies have stated that collaborations on electric and autonomous vehicles are possible. The rumor also said that Volkswagen was investing nearly $ 2 billion in Argo earlier this yearalthough no agreement has been signed. (This is also would have tried to buy Aurora last year.)
"From Volkswagen's point of view, it would make sense to cooperate with an American player, as the regulatory conditions allowing the breakthrough of autonomous driving are more advanced in the United States than in Europe," said General Manager of Volkswagen, Herbert Diess. association with Ford.
The news of the split comes just days after Fiat Chrysler's announcement of its intention. pay an undisclosed amount of money to use Aurora technology to operate autonomous utility vehicles. Hyundai and EV start Byton are also customers of Aurora and the autonomous technology company has raised half a billion dollars earlier this year. in a round of financing led by Amazon.
An Aurora spokeswoman did not confirm the split, but the company said the agreements with Hyundai and Byton were still in effect. "The Volkswagen Group has been a great Aurora partner since the early days of Aurora pilot development," the spokesman said in a statement. "As the driver matures and our platform strengthens, we continue to work with a growing number of partners who complement our expertise and expand the reach of our product."
Argo was co-founded by Bryan Salesky, another former member of Google's autonomous driving team. He was also part of the same team as Urmson in the successful DARPA 2007 Autopilot Challenge. a turning point in the search for autonomous cars. Ford dropped $ 1 billion in Argo in 2017 and has worked closely with the startup since.
While both companies are still in the development phase, Argo is apparently a direct competitor to Aurora, in that it is trying to develop and sell the complete technology suite that would fuel future autonomous cars. Others, like GM's Cruise, are trying to develop autonomous driving technology alongside a specially designed car for this purpose.
During an interview on The Vergecast in AprilUrmson recounted how I had seen the competition as Argo. "We do not think there will be many, many people who can do it, we think the construction of the pilot is very difficult," he said. "We believe that about 100 companies working in this space will probably consolidate into a handful, and we expect to be one of those companies."