Aurora Innovation has officially joined the ranks of Pittsburgh companies that have gone public this year.
On Thursday, the autonomous vehicle company made its public debut on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol AUR after its merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Reinvent Technology Partners Y was approved by shareholders earlier this week. The deal, which was initially announced in July, makes Aurora the first autonomous vehicle company to go public through a SPAC. (Other companies with stakes in the industry, like Tesla and Google’s Waymo, are on the market, too.)
Yesterday, Aurora closed the merger, with the newly combined companies taking on the name of Aurora Innovation, Inc. The company started trading on the Nasdaq this morning at $11.30 per share (up from Reinvent’s closing price of $9.91 yesterday) and as of this writing, was down to $9.66 — a 2.5% decrease from the closing price. Those prices put the company’s market capitalization in the range of $13 billion to $14 billion, up from its $10 billion valuation after acquiring Uber’s self-driving unit Advanced Technologies Group at the end of last year.
Founded in 2017, Aurora is one of many fast-growing Pittsburgh tech companies to pursue a public offering this year. Already in this quarter alone, Cognition Therapeutics and Stronghold Digital Mining have both launched successful IPOs while Cernostics went public through an acquisition by Castle Biosciences. In July, homegrown language learning company Duolingo launched its IPO with a valuation of over $6 billion.
Aurora’s debut as a public company is also a significant move for the autonomous vehicle industry. It’s no secret that consumers have persistent safety concerns about the disruptive technology, and there are worries that it could eliminate jobs in the heavily unionized trucking industry. But with plans to launch its first commercial product by the end of 2023, Aurora needs more cash to move forward on its industry partnerships and tech production and deployment.
Last year, the company spent $179 million on research and development, and had total losses of $214 million. And in just the first quarter of this year, Aurora reported another $159 million spent on research and development. With a late 2023 launch planned for the Aurora Horizon autonomous commercial trucking subscription service and a projected arrival one year later for the Aurora Connect ride-hailing one, the company will not be profitable until at least 2024, if that.
CEO and cofounder Chris Urmson shared in a Business Insider article this fall that he anticipates $622 million in revenue in 2026, which he believes can then more than triple to $2 billion in 2027. In other words, those interested in purchasing shares of the company have a few years to wait before they’ll bear fruit.
Still, if Aurora is successful in marketing to its customers and addressing deep-seated safety concerns (which it’s already begun to do with the publication of its Safety Case Framework and formation of an Industry Advisory Council), its partnerships with powerhouse companies like Uber, FedEx, Volvo Group and more, as well its early public debut, position the company to be an industry leader.
In advance of trading this morning, Urmson took to Twitter to underscore the impending necessity of autonomous vehicle technology like Aurora. Amid supply chain pressures, labor force shortages, inflation and tens of thousands of traffic collision deaths annually, Urmson painted a picture of “a world with the Aurora Driver,” where “critical goods like food, medicine, and supplies will be delivered on time” and “parents can sleep soundly knowing their children are safely being transported to school, prom, and their friends’ houses.”
Today is a significant step in our journey to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly to the world. It also comes at a time when society needs our vision to become a reality more than ever before. /1 https://t.co/Szuvvk2Ebv
— Chris Urmson (@chris_urmson) November 4, 2021
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.