Autonomous driving companies like Google's Waymo are mostly aiming to create self-driving taxi platforms. Currently Waymo is creating their own software and hardware in order to operate their own fleet. Uber, Voyage, and Zoox are all following the same tactic with their self-driving efforts.
This model relegates automakers—in Waymo's case, Jaguar and Fiat Chrysler—to the role of anonymous suppliers. Aurora is taking a different approach—one that's attractive to automakers who are accustomed to sitting at the apex of the automotive supply chain. Aurora aims to develop an autonomy stack it can license to car makers, allowing car makers to continue manufacturing and selling cars under their own brands.
Initially, Aurora's technology is likely to be sold in the form of driverless taxi rides rather than customer-owned vehicles. Aurora hasn't explained exactly how this will work. Maybe automakers will own and operate driverless taxi fleets themselves. Maybe they'll sell cars to third parties—Uber or Lyft, Avis or Zipcar—who run their own taxi fleets. Maybe Aurora and automakers will form joint ventures to operate the fleets. When I pressed Aurora CEO Chris Urmson for details on this a few months ago, he declined to get into specifics.
Regardless, Aurora's long-term goal is clear. The company hopes its platform will become an industry standard for autonomous vehicles, much as Microsoft Windows became standard for PCs 25 years ago.
Even before today's announcement, Aurora had significant partnerships in place with Volkswagen and Hyundai. Treating car companies as partners, rather than suppliers, gives them an incentive to use their considerable manufacturing and marketing resources to promote Aurora's platform.
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