Aurora Innovation, the cutting-edge company revolutionizing autonomous vehicle technology, is determined to launch their “driverless” self-driving truck business by the end of 2024. However, sources reveal that the company recently made the difficult decision to lay off multiple workers this month, according to insiders familiar with the situation. This Pittsburgh-based company, which also has locations in California, Colorado, Texas, and Montana, has confirmed that approximately 3% of its workforce was impacted by the early 2024 organizational review.
“As we move toward commercial launch, we recently reviewed the entire organization to ensure we are working as effectively as possible and with the velocity required to achieve our ambitious goals,” stated Cristopher Barrett, Aurora’s senior vice president of people.
At the end of 2023, the company reported a total of around 1,800 workers in their employ.
Barrett continues, “Through this process, a limited number of roles were eliminated which impacted 3 percent of our total workforce. During the recent market uncertainty, we have been incredibly thoughtful in our resourcing in order to minimize such actions. We are grateful for the contributions of these individuals and are supporting them through this transition.”
The layoff announcement comes as Aurora continues to make strides in its plans to release a fleet of self-driving trucks that can travel on U.S. highways without a human driver at the helm. The goal is to have up to 20 driverless Class 8 trucks on the road by the end of 2024, initially transporting freight between Dallas and Houston. This route has been used for testing purposes by the company.
Aurora is also collaborating with automotive supplier Continental on a project totaling more than $300 million to mass produce autonomous vehicle hardware for commercial self-driving trucks. The first phase of this project has recently been completed, allowing Continental to work on developing prototypes in preparation for beginning production in 2027.
Developing safe and reliable autonomous vehicle technology has proven to be an expensive endeavor, causing many startups to shut down or be acquired. This trend began in 2020 and has persisted into 2023 due to economic challenges.
Aurora, which was founded in 2017 by former employees of Tesla, Uber, and Waymo, chose to pursue public markets in order to raise the necessary capital to commercialize this cutting-edge technology. In 2021, the company became publicly traded after merging with a special purpose acquisition company created by LinkedIn co-founder and investor Reid Hoffman, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, and managing partner Michael Thompson.
Aurora is now among the few remaining companies dedicated to bringing self-driving big rigs to the commercial market. Other companies working on this technology include privately held Kodiak Robotics, Torc Robotics, and Sweden’s Einride. However, the road to success has not always been smooth, as the high cost of employing engineers for development combined with economic difficulties has strained resources.
In 2022, a leaked memo from Aurora CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson laid out a variety of options for cutting costs and generating revenue, such as a hiring freeze, asset spin-offs, small capital raises, going private, and even selling to major tech players like Apple or Microsoft.
The company reassured investors that it had enough financial resources to last until mid-2024, and while some cost-cutting measures were implemented, real relief came in July 2023 after completing a successful capital raise of $820 million through a public and private stock offering.
At the time, Aurora stated that this funding would support them through commercial launch at the end of 2024 and into 2025. This was reiterated in the company’s third-quarter 2023 earnings report, with the addition that their current liquidity totaling $1.5 billion is expected to sustain their planned commercial launch and operations into the latter half of 2025.