Eighteen months ago, Uber's self-driving car unit, Uber Advanced Technologies Group, was valued at $7.25 billion following a $1 billion investment from Toyota, DENSO and SoftBank's Vision Fund. Now, it's up for sale and a competing autonomous vehicle technology startup is in talks with Uber to buy it, according to three sources familiar with the deal. Aurora Innovation, the startup founded by three veterans of the autonomous vehicle industry who led programs at Google, Tesla and Uber, is in negotiations to buy Uber ATG. Terms of the deal are still unknown, but sources say the two companies have been in talks since October and it is far along in the process. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment, citing that the company's general policy is not to comment on these sorts of inquiries.
Uber is selling its self-driving car unit, reflecting the culmination of a rocky tenure marked by ambitions of revolutionary technology, accusations of stolen trade secrets, a deadly accident and government scrutiny. The ride-hailing app has negotiated a deal to sell its Advanced Technologies Group to self-driving car start-up Aurora, which is headed by Chris Urmson, the former leader of Google's autonomous vehicle efforts. The move doesn't mean Uber is abandoning self-driving cars. The company is investing $400 million in Amazon-backed Aurora and is forming a technology partnership with Uber, while Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is joining the start-up's board. The deal reflects an admission by Uber that its once-ambitious self-driving car division had faltered, burning cash and failing to achieve its goal of revolutionizing transportation and boosting profits by removing the need for a human driver.
Self-driving startup Aurora is the first company to receive Pennsylvania's blessing to test autonomous vehicles on its roads. As TechCrunch noted, it's actually been trialing its technology on the streets of Pittsburgh since 2017 -- along with other companies -- but the state only released its automated vehicle testing guidance in July. While automakers aren't required to register, Aurora voluntarily complied with the government's request, which will give the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation access to information about its test results and conditions, the safety measures it takes, the vetting and training of its vehicle operators and the internal details about how its self-driving system works. Aurora is nowhere near as recognizable as Waymo, but it was founded by three experienced names in the field: Chris Urmson (led Carnegie Mellon's self-driving efforts in DARPA's Grand Challenges), Drew Bagnell (formerly of Uber's self-driving team) and Sterling Anderson (from Tesla's Autopilot team). In fact, the startup's beginnings were mired in controversy.
Aurora Innovation Inc., a Silicon Valley-based autonomous-driving startup with at least a $10 billion valuation, has agreed to a long-term strategic partnership with Toyota Motor Corp. and its supplier Denso Corp. that aims to mass produce autonomous vehicles and launch them on ride-hailing networks, including Uber's, over the next few years. The first model that will be equipped with the Aurora Driver, the company's hardware, software and sensor suite, is the Toyota Sienna minivan, with testing of an initial fleet to begin this year. Toyota, which overtook Volkswagen AG as the world's top-selling automaker in 2020, is also an investor in Uber Technologies Inc. and has a formidable brand that has long been associated with high volume manufacturing and safety. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Toyota will gain an observer seat on Aurora's board. "This is a really exciting set of developments," said Sterling Anderson, Aurora's Chief Product Officer, in an interview.