Hindsight is 20/20: Aurora’s most impactful moments from a year we won’t forget
Although 2020 was challenging and tumultuous from a global perspective, I am proud of how our team pulled together to have our most impressive year yet.
Building a self-driving car and making it useful is not only an extremely challenging technical problem, but also an expensive one. While many of our peers have been faced with the tough decision to exclusively partner or go out of business, we’re lucky that we have high-quality investors committed for the long-term, an unparalleled technical team, and the financial runway to make our own choices.
From day one, our choice has been to focus on delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. Who we partner with and how we bring this to market will evolve over time, but we will always pick the path that allows us to best deliver on our mission. Given recent conversations about the industry’s structure, we thought we’d share more about our current path of independence and why it’s served us well.
Independence allows us to innovate: Introducing breakthrough technology requires a company with the flexibility to build new processes optimized for new technologies. Leadership at legendary innovators like Apple and Amazon have historically used this flexibility and focus to create new cultures and values that helped to foster the out-of-the-box product creation both companies are still known for today. This was intentional. In the same vein, building a self-driving car is a fundamentally different and complex challenge so it’s critical that we have the independence to think big and create an organizational structure and culture that encourages innovation, rather than stifles it.
Independence means we’re the main bet, not the side bet: Our independent financing ensures we’re not the side bet or tangential business of another company. When analysts are predicting it will take years for the automotive industry to recover from our current recession, we can’t afford nor have the time for our mission to be vulnerable to economic downturns. During the pandemic, this approach became that much clearer: our strong independent financial position enabled our team to accelerate progress while so many others were faced with layoffs, furloughs, and shutdowns.
Independence allows us to attract the best talent: As an independently owned high-growth company, we offer a unique and compelling incentive structure for talent and investors, making us an attractive bet for brilliant folks who are excited and motivated to solve this problem, and to do so quickly.
The self-driving industry is well on its way to being over a two trillion-dollar industry — far greater than what one automotive or network can commercially capture. The reality is there are many OEMs and networks, operating in middle and last-mile delivery, long haul trucking and ridesharing, that will want this technology. To deliver the benefits of self-driving broadly to both OEMs and network partners, we have purposefully built an Aurora Ecosystem where the Aurora Driver can support them all. Right now, we are uniquely positioned to deliver middle-mile, highway driving because of Aurora’s FirstLight lidar, a technology that is unparalleled in the industry.
Our strong relationships across the transportation industry have enabled us to integrate the Aurora Driver in a number of vehicle types, so we can address trucking, local goods delivery, and passenger mobility networks. In other words, we’ve been able to make meaningful progress towards developing our Driver to make a broad impact specifically because we’re not in an exclusive partnership. And given how challenging this problem is, it’s no surprise that companies are making multiple bets.
Fortunately and unsurprisingly, when it comes to exclusive deals or acquisitions, only a handful of vehicle manufacturers that predominantly specialize in building passenger vehicles have acquired an AV startup, leaving dozens of other large OEMs in a strong position to create vehicles and solutions that address the market need. In addition, the vast majority of network industries, like logistics and ride-sharing, have refrained from making exclusive arrangements with AV companies.
Many challenges and opportunities lie ahead for the industry as we address the self-driving opportunity. One thing we do know is that when this technology is here, a slew of OEMs and networks will want it as the benefits and opportunities around cost savings, safety and efficiencies are too massive to ignore. Our independence makes us a very attractive solution to the many delivery providers, trucking manufacturers, ridesharing networks and public transit authorities who haven’t and likely won’t ever partner with present or future competition.
At Aurora, we’re committed to building the Aurora Driver and creating partnerships that move us forward in our core mission. We’re focused on our technology, our ecosystem and building the right team of talent and experiences. This is a long game we’re playing but we’re running at a faster pace — and that’s entirely due to our independent ability to create the right company and approach to solve the problem.