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Volkswagen Group in strategic collaboration with self-driving technology startup Aurora Innovation; Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) fleets

The Volkswagen Group and self-driving technology startup Aurora Innovation, founded by technology veterans from Google, Tesla and Uber, announced a strategic collaboration ahead of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The collaboration brings the two companies together to realize self-driving electric vehicles in cities as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) fleets.

Over the past six months, specialists from the Volkswagen Group and Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL) at Stanford University have been working intensively with experts from Aurora to integrate Aurora’s self-driving system—including sensors, hardware and software, such as Machine Learning and AI technology—in Volkswagen Group’s vehicle platforms.

Based in Palo Alto, CA, and Pittsburgh, PA, Aurora designs and builds self-driving technology, partnering with automakers to integrate, pilot and deploy advanced self-driving platforms into vehicles. The three founders—Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chris Urmson, Chief Product Officer (CPO) Sterling Anderson and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Drew Bagnell—and deep academic and commercial experience in the field.

  • Chris Urmson, Co-founder & CEO. Urmson helped found, led, and later served as Chief Technology Officer for self-driving cars at Alphabet. Before that, Chris was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, and helped win the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. He has a PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon.

  • Sterling Anderson, Co-founder & Chief Product Officer. Anderson has been developing self-driving technology for the better part of the last decade, starting with the creation of MIT’s Intelligent Co-Pilot in 2007. Anderson led the design, development, and launch of the Tesla Model X and directed Tesla Autopilot from its release and evolution on the first generation platform through design, development, and launch of the second. He has a PhD in Robotics from MIT.

  • Drew Bagnell, Co-founder & Chief Technical Officer. Bagnell has worked for 18 years at the intersection of machine learning and robotics with expertise in self-driving cars, imitation and reinforcement learning, planning, and computer vision. He is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. Bagnell was a founding member at both Carnegie Robotics and Uber’s Advanced Technology Center and has a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon.

With the customer experience at the center of this technology development, the Volkswagen Group is focused on creating new solutions, with the goal of providing best-in-class user experience with a focus on safety, convenience and usability. Cities need such smart mobility solutions to help solve their traffic, pollution and traffic safety challenges.

The Volkswagen Group defined its goal of becoming a global leader in autonomous driving with its dedicated Self-Driving System (SDS) in its future program “TOGETHER – Strategy 2025”. This strategic direction builds on a long tradition for the Volkswagen Group as a leader in the fields of automated vehicle and advanced mobility technologies. In 2005, a Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab-Stanford University team claimed victory at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge—widely considered the dawn of the automated vehicle era.

Our vision is ‘Mobility for all, at the push of a button’. This means that we want to offer mobility for all people around the world. Mobility also for children, elderly, sick and visually impaired people, really for all. ‘At the push of a button’ stands for simplicity and the easiness of use. In the future, we anticipate that people will be able to use our mobility app or digital virtual assistant to hail a self-driving electric vehicle to drive them conveniently door-to-door, or use our Volkswagen OneButton which has GPS, connectivity and a compass, as a small beautiful key fob with maximum convenience.

Working with Aurora, a leading self-driving system company, will give us a giant leap forward in our mission to become the world’s leading provider of sustainable mobility, with self-driving vehicles. Our aim is to create new Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) solutions which customers will be really passionate about because they have been tailored to the human with highest safety standards, best-in-class user experience and digital intelligence. For me this is the reinvention of mobility and the automobile.

—Volkswagen Group Chief Digital Officer Johann Jungwirth

Self-driving technology is set to become the centerpiece of future personal mobility. The collaboration with Aurora will provide valuable experience with the world-class engineering team to the ongoing development of software and hardware for driverless vehicles, and, additionally, mobility services for urban and rural areas.

With this new agreement, the Volkswagen Group is stepping up the pace of its strategic initiatives. As the Self-Driving System (SDS) reaches the required maturity and safety levels in the first cities, it can be integrated across the Group brands, for different product categories: from fully self-driving pods, like SEDRIC, the Volkswagen concept introduced in 2017. (Earlier post.)

Our priority at Aurora is to make self-driving cars a reality quickly, broadly and safely, and we know we will get there faster by partnering with innovative automakers like the Volkswagen Group. This partnership establishes a deep collaboration using Aurora’s self-driving technology, and together we will bring self-driving vehicles to market at scale.

—Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora

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