Acquisitions / Autonomous tech / Business / Investing / Products

Ahead of Aurora’s SPAC deal vote, here’s everything the AV company has done since acquiring Uber ATG

As Aurora prepares to make its market debut, note these major points of progress in the last year, from industry partnerships to product beta testing to announcing Pittsburgh as its full headquarters.

Aurora Innovation vehicles. (Courtesy photo)
After a year of big moves, homegrown unicorn and autonomous vehicle company Aurora Innovation will face a vote to go public this Wednesday.

In a special purpose acquisition company deal Aurora announced with Reinvent Technology Partners Y in July, the company is preparing for its potential first day on the market this Thursday. But first, the deal requires a green light from shareholders, who are expected to approve the acquisition in a vote on Wednesday. If successful, Aurora will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbols “AUR” and “AUROW” and will gain approximately $1.8 billion in proceeds and cash on hand that will go toward commercial launches of the company’s technology, a press release noted on Monday.

Aurora’s move to go public follows a string of successes in doing so from Pittsburgh tech, most recently with Duolingo this summer and Cognition Therapeutics and Stronghold Digital Mining earlier this fall. Though the SPAC deal process face less SEC scrutiny than the traditional IPO route those other companies took, it’s often a better choice for companies looking to make a quicker move to public trading. That’s certainly true for Aurora, as it aims to be the first company to have a commercial launch for both trucking and passenger transportation.

In preparation for the vote and market debut, rounded up all of the significant business announcements from the company’s last year, starting with its massive acquisition of Uber’s self-driving unit.

Aurora acquires Uber’s self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group — December 2020

In some of the biggest news last year for Pittsburgh tech, Aurora acquired Uber’s self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group, which the ride-hailing company had set up in Pittsburgh as an attempt to build out its innovation beyond its core business. The December deal put Aurora’s valuation at $10 billion, and set up the autonomous vehicle company to prepare its full commercial launch its flagship product, the Aurora Driver. As part of the acquisition, Uber also invested $400 million in Aurora, while the AV company retained a majority of Advanced Technologies Group’s 700 employees.

Aurora announces partnerships with Volvo, Toyota, PACCAR and more — Q1 2021

Throughout the first quarter of this year, Aurora announced several key industry partnerships that would accelerate its development of the Aurora Driver and the rollout of the tech in commercial trucks and cars. The first of those partnerships was with truck manufacturer PACCAR in January 2021, as a way for Aurora to move forward on trucking applications, which the company has said it would prioritize over cars in the initial launch of the Aurora Driver. But less than a month after that, Aurora made progress on the commercialization of its platform for ride-hailing services in a partnership with car manufacturers Toyota and Denso. Finally, following prior collaborations between the two companies, Aurora and Volvo Group shared that they would team up to commercialize autonomous L4 Class 8 trucks from the vehicle manufacturer.

Aurora shares initial plans to go public — July 2021

At the start of the third quarter, Aurora shared news that many had suspected after the string of partnerships and acquisitions announced by the company over the last few years: The autonomous vehicle firm would go public a mere four years after its founding. The deal announcement caught big attention in the news cycle in part because it would make Aurora the first Pittsburgh-founded AV company to go public after the city had famously provided a home for development of the disruptive tech in 2015. But the founders of the company who will acquire Aurora — LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus — also lent notoriety and credibility to the deal.

Aurora publishes its Safety Case Framework — August 2021

Likely meant as a move to assuage concerns from potential investors once the company goes public, Aurora published its Safety Case Framework in August, a month after its SPAC deal announcement. The framework lays out Aurora’s methodology for assessing whether or not its vehicles would pose unreasonable risks on public roads. In an interview published on the company blog, VP of Safety Nat Beuse shared that Aurora hopes to make use of this kind of framework the norm in the autonomous vehicle industry, as it is for industries like aviation. Aurora is reportedly the only autonomous vehicle company to publicly share its safety case framework.

Aurora makes Pittsburgh its full headquarters — September 2021

Aurora, which was founded by a former member of Carnegie Mellon University’s famous DARPA challenge teams, announced that Pittsburgh would become the company’s full corporate headquarters, after previously sharing the title with offices in Mountain View, California. Aurora had previously expanded its local presence with a new office in the Strip District last year, in addition to its Lawrenceville and Hazelwood locations. The move added momentum to a community push this summer to make Pittsburgh the “robotics capital of the world.”

Aurora solidifies plans for commercial launches — September 2021

After making progress on partnerships with Volvo Group, Toyota and PACCAR, Aurora shared in September that it would launch a pilot program for autonomous PACCAR trucks to serve shipment needs for FedEx along the I-45 corridor between Houston and Dallas, with plans to have the vehicles operating fully autonomously without a safety driver by the end of 2023. The company also shared detailed looks at the vehicles being developed through Volvo Group and Toyota partnerships.

Aurora creates Industry Advisory Council — October 2021

In a move to add credibility to the company as it faces a field of consumers still skeptical about the safety of its disruptive tech, Aurora announced the creation of an Industry Advisory Council to provide guidance on product offerings, go-to-market plans and regulatory strategy. The council members share a wide range of expertise, from federal government work to consulting to academia to transportation. Insight from the council will likely ease Aurora’s transition into the commercial realm, as well as assuage investor concerns on safety and feasibility of autonomous vehicles ahead of the SPAC deal.

Aurora launches the Aurora Driver for beta testing — October 2021

In a key sign that Aurora is readying for a full commercial launch of the Aurora Driver, the company shared updates on operations of the FedEx and PACCAR pilot in Texas, one week ahead of the SPAC deal. In entering beta testing, the company is now in one of the final stages of product development for the Aurora Driver, and will have the chance to finalize safety and operational concerns it may run into throughout the pilot program and other use cases. Reaching the milestone of bringing its product on the road is also a significant proof of concept for Aurora that will likely bode well with investors for its market debut.

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.
Companies: Aurora / Uber

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