Volkswagen Group Sedric concept, 2017 Geneva auto show
The Volkswagen Group looks to be a bit behind in the mobility and self-driving car segments compared to some rivals as the automaker is on the hunt to scoop up experts on the subject. It appears Aurora Innovation, a self-driving car startup based in California, was one of the firms VW approached.
VW approached Aurora and offered to purchase the company for an undisclosed amount, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. According to sources close to the discussions, Aurora declined the offer to maintain its independence and retain its ability to work with multiple automakers. VW and Aurora are already partners and the German automaker plans to use self-driving technology in a production self-driving car, perhaps ready in 2021. The Sedric concept unveiled in 2017 may hint at VW's first self-driving car.
Aurora was founded by Chris Urmson, Drew Bagnell and Sterling Anderson, and each has vast experience with self-driving technology. Urmson previously headed the Google Self-Driving Car Project, now Waymo; Bagnell is a former engineer from Uber's self-driving car team; and Anderson previously led Tesla's development of Autopilot.
VW and Aurora announced a partnership at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. Both companies disclosed the two had been working together for months to integrate Aurora's technology including sensors, hardware, and software into various VW Group vehicles. Aurora announced similar partnerships with Hyundai and Chinese startup electric car start Byton at the start of the year. Urmson told Bloomberg at the time that Aurora's goal is to push its technology into as many vehicles as possible, which effectively rules out a VW purchase.
VW's attempted purchase of Aurora would have mirrored General Motors' strategy to gain an upper hand in the self-driving car segment. The U.S automaker purchased Cruise Automation to strengthen its presence in the sector, while Waymo, Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving car subsidiary, continues to lead the pack. GM Cruise garnered a $2.25 billion investment from Japan's SoftBank in May, a sign that the business is seen as a profitable venture for the future.