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.
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.
Fields that are pre-populated in this Aurora Innovation, the four-year-old startup founded by former Google self-driving engineer Chris Urmson, announced this afternoon it will acquire Advanced Technologies Group, the unit inside Uber that has been developing self-driving capabilities. Aurora, which emerged from stealth in early 2018, has struck various partnerships with large automakers over the yeas, including Hyundai. Urmson was the chief technology officer for Google's self-driving unit for seven years before leaving in 2016 to found Aurora. The startup has received almost $700 million in venture capital money in five rounds over the years, from investors including Amazon and venture capital firms Greylock Management and Sequoia Capital. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, Aurora said in a blog post that it is entering a partnership with Uber in order to "connect our technology to the world's leading ride-hailing platform" and to "strengthen our position to deliver the Aurora Driver broadly," referring to the company's self-driving technology.
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.
As expected, Uber is selling off its self-driving unit. On Monday, the company confirmed the sale of its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) to Aurora Innovation, one of its now previous competitors in the autonomous vehicle space. As part of the deal, Uber will invest $400 million in Aurora, with CEO Dara Khosrowshahi joining the startup's board of directors. Effectively, Uber is paying Aurora to take the division off its hands. In the near term, the startup will put ATG's expertise to use on a self-driving truck it's working on.