Aurora, maker of self-driving vehicles, reduces staff by 3%

Aurora Innovation, the autonomous vehicle technology company aiming to launch a “driverless” self-driving trucks business by the end of 2024, laid off dozens of workers this month, according to sources familiar with the action. Aurora employed about 1,800 workers as of the end of 2023, according to the company. Aurora is also working with automotive supplier Continental on a more than $300 million project to mass produce autonomous vehicle hardware for commercial self-driving trucks. Developing autonomous vehicle technology that is safe enough for public roads has proven to be an expensive endeavor that has led to numerous startups shutting down or being acquired. Kodiak Robotics, which is privately held; Torc Robotics; and Sweden’s Einride are also working on self-driving trucks.

Aurora Innovation, the pioneering autonomous vehicle technology company, has recently made the difficult decision to lay off several employees this month. According to sources familiar with the situation, the Pittsburgh-based company, with additional facilities in California, Colorado, Texas, and Montana, has confirmed that around 3% of its workforce was impacted by these layoffs. This move follows an organizational review conducted by the company.

Aurora, which currently employs approximately 1,800 workers, has experienced significant growth leading up to this point. However, with their sights set on launching a fleet of “driverless” self-driving trucks by the end of 2024, the company has had to reassess its resources and streamline operations.

As we move towards our upcoming commercial launch, we have conducted a thorough review of our organization to ensure we are working in the most effective and efficient manner possible. The result of this review has led to the elimination of a limited number of positions, impacting 3% of our total workforce. We are grateful for the contributions of these individuals and are providing support during this transition.

– Cristopher Barrett, Senior Vice President of People at Aurora

The development of technology that enables self-driving vehicles to navigate public roads has proven to be a costly endeavor, resulting in many startups being acquired or shutting down. Despite this challenging landscape, Aurora has remained steadfast in their pursuit of commercializing self-driving big rigs.

The company’s mission has been driven by its founding members, who are alumni of notable companies such as Tesla, Uber, and Waymo. In a bid to secure the necessary capital to bring their frontier technology to market, Aurora went public in 2021, following a merger with a special purpose acquisition company spearheaded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, and Michael Thompson, a managing partner.

While other companies in this space have fallen by the wayside, Aurora continues to push forward with its goal of launching up to 20 driverless Class 8 trucks by the end of 2024. These trucks, with no human driver behind the wheel, are set to travel between Dallas and Houston, a route that has been utilized by the company for testing purposes.

As part of its efforts to drive innovation, Aurora has entered into a partnership with automotive supplier Continental on a project valued at over $300 million. This partnership aims to mass produce autonomous vehicle hardware specifically designed for commercial self-driving trucks. The initial phase of the project has recently been completed, allowing Continental to begin developing prototypes in preparation for production starting in 2027.

The road to public roads for these self-driving trucks has been a bumpy one, with the challenges of high engineering costs and economic headwinds causing many companies to face financial struggles. In 2022, Aurora’s CEO and co-founder, Chris Urmson, presented a memo to the company’s board outlining various cost-cutting and cash-generating options, including a hiring freeze, spinning out assets, and even considering selling itself to tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft.

However, in July of 2023, Aurora was able to raise $820 million in capital through a public and private stock offering, providing significant relief and securing funding through “well into 2025.” The company reiterated this financial stability in its third-quarter earnings report of 2023, stating that their total liquidity of $1.5 billion will support their commercial launch and sustain operations for the second half of 2025.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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