Uber agreed to sell its autonomous auto division to Aurora in order to give the hail giant a stake in the startup that develops self-driving technology, the companies said on Monday.
Under the deal, Uber will invest $ 400 million in Aurora to bring together teams from both companies who want to advance autonomous hail technology and will own a 26 percent stake in Aurora.
“By adding the people and technologies of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group to the incredible group we have already assembled at Aurora, we are changing the landscape of automated vehicle space,” said Chris Urmson, Aurora Co-Founder and General Manager. This was supported by Amazon and the South Korean car maker Hyundai, among others.
The sale of Uber’s autonomous propulsion unit, which had temporarily stalled a few years ago after a fatal accident, comes in as it streamlines operations to navigate the pandemic in a ridesharing market.
Uber didn’t seem to be giving up self-driving cars, which were part of its vision for a profitable rideshare, but traded the unit for a stake in Aurora Innovation.
“With ATG, Aurora has an incredibly strong team and technology, a clear path to multiple markets and the resources to deliver,” said Urmson.
“Put simply, Aurora will be the company best positioned to deliver the self-driving products needed to make transportation and logistics safer, more accessible and less expensive.”
Along with the acquisition of ATG, Aurora announced a strategic partnership with Uber to connect its technology with the leading smartphone-conjured driving service, the companies said.
Companies expected that the self-driving technology would initially be used for long-distance transportation.
Uber executive director Dara Khosrowshahi joins the Aurora board of directors as part of the deal. The combined company will work on the technology that will be known as the Aurora Driver.
“Few technologies hold as much promise as self-driving vehicles for improving people’s lives with safe, accessible and environmentally friendly modes of transport,” said Khosrowshahi.
“I look forward to working with Chris and adding the Aurora driver to the Uber network in the years to come.”
Uber’s drive for autonomous vehicles has been hampered by driver inattention and “inadequate” security measures by the company following a US investigation into the death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving Uber car in 2018.
There have also been issues due to litigation by former Google auto unit Waymo alleging that Uber had misused trade secrets related to autonomous technology.
Waymo opened its robo-taxi project to the general public in the US city of Phoenix in October, making it the first widely used driverless driving service.
Aurora, founded by an engineer who previously worked on the Google autonomous vehicle team, is supported by Amazon and Fiat Chrysler.
Japanese auto giant Toyota and investment fund SoftBank Vision Fund have invested in Uber’s autonomous drive unit.