Autonomous driving startup Aurora plans to go public through SPAC

Aurora, a start-up that develops hardware and software to allow vehicles to drive autonomously, will go public through a merger of SPAC.

The deal with special-purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners is expected to close this year, establishing the merged company with $ 2.5 billion in cash.

“This is the natural next step for us,” said Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson. “This will unlock the capital we need to offer the Aurora controller as a service at scale.” Upon completion, Aurora will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol AUR with a valuation of $ 11 billion.

With partners like Toyota, Uber, and truck makers Volvo and Paccar, Aurora is targeting a wide range of vehicles, delivery services, and mobility companies for its technology. The goal is to enable the vehicles to achieve Level 4 autonomous driving, which means that human interaction is not necessary when the vehicles are on the road.

Aurora expects to have its technology integrated into Class 8 Volvo and Paccar trucks by the end of 2023. As those trucks operate autonomously on streets and highways, they will generate revenue per mile for Aurora.

While the business model is attractive, turning that promise into reality and solving the complexity of Level 4 autonomous driving is a huge challenge. The commercialization of autonomous vehicles has been much more challenging than many predicted a few years ago.

Some companies, like Uber Technologies, have given up developing the systems in-house. Uber sold its autonomous vehicle business to Aurora, while other firms, such as Zoox, sold to Amazon. Alphabet’s Waymo continues to be the highest-profile leader, operating a fleet of autonomous public vehicles in Arizona.

Urmson has been working on the technology for nearly 15 years, including a long stint at the helm of Google’s self-driving car project.

“We understand how difficult it is to solve this problem,” he said. “We have spent the last four years building the foundation for this technology. Now is the time to transition and deliver. “

Will investors adopt Aurora once it becomes a public company? The SPAC settlements for some electric vehicle companies like Nikola, Lordstown Motors, and Canoo have led to extremely volatile actions and SEC investigations into whether the companies misled investors.

Mark Pincus, co-founder and principal of Reinvent Technology Partners, said he invested in Aurora because it was a “clear leader” in the industry.

“It’s a no-brainer for us to be in the mix,” he said. “It represents everything we are looking for in the autonomous vehicle market.”

Aurora estimates that the global trucking, last mile delivery and private transportation markets are worth a combined $ 9.4 trillion. In short, they represent a huge opportunity, which explains why automakers like GM, Tesla and Volkswagen are investing billions to develop autonomous vehicles. Alphabet’s Waymo was previously known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project when Urmson ran it from 2013 to 2016.

At the time, Urmson said her goal was to make autonomous vehicles a reality so her son wouldn’t have to get a driver’s license. Later this year, Urmson’s son will turn 18. He now has his learner’s permit, while his father takes another step towards his goal of putting autonomous vehicles on the road.

– CNBC’s Michael Wayland contributed to this article.

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