Ride-hailing giant Uber has moved to sell its driverless car research division to self-driving startup Aurora, a significant shift in the company’s plans for future development.
The autonomous driving unit, known as Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), will be sold as part of a reported $4 billion deal which will see Uber investing $400 million in Aurora in return for a 26% stake in the company. The deal will also give Aurora access to Toyota, which has invested in ATG.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will also be joining Aurora’s board, and the two companies expect to collaborate in bringing driverless cars to Uber in the coming years.
“Few technologies hold as much promise to improve people’s lives with safe, accessible, and environmentally friendly transportation as self-driving vehicles,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “For the last five years, our phenomenal team at ATG has been at the forefront of this effort – and in joining forces with Aurora, they are now in pole position to deliver on that promise even faster.”
Aurora is a Silicon Valley-based startup founded by former Tesla, Uber and Google executives and backed by Amazon and Sequoia Capital. The firm develops sensors and software for autonomous vehicles, with a focus on the commercial trucking sector over automated ride-hailing taxis. It currently employs over 1,200 workers.
The news follows a prediction from Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess that autonomous vehicles will be ready for the consumer market between 2025 and 2030. In an interview with weekly German magazine Wirtschaftswoche, Diess said that autonomous driving technologies had progressed significantly, with advances in artificial intelligence continuing to accelerate.
Germany’s Ministry of Transport has already begun to draft legislation to allow driverless vehicles to operate on public roads. Trials of self-driving cars began in the UK in October as part of the government-backed research scheme “Project Endeavour”.