Expertise bringing products to market will be crucial as we prepare to deliver the Aurora Driver at scale
By Chris Urmson
Hardware plays a foundational role in powering the Aurora Driver. Since our founding, we’ve made several key investments to build world-class technology and a talented hardware engineering team. Today we welcome a new leader to our team — Sandor Barna, who joins Aurora as our first VP of Hardware.
As we plan for our next stage of growth, we look for people who have diverse perspectives, industry expertise, and relevant experience. This enables us to build the Aurora Driver safely and quickly as we tackle some of the industry’s most challenging problems, like understanding the hardware requirements for self-driving technology.
Sandor — who has spent his career leading large technical teams at GoPro, ON Semiconductor, Aptina, and Micron — knows how to build innovative, high-performance products and bring them to market at scale. This experience in manufacturing and shipping technology at scale is valuable as we lay the foundation for delivering our hardware across multiple vehicle platforms that will operate on surface streets and highways.
Building the Aurora Driver involves weaving together a combination of carefully-crafted sensors, computers, and networking hardware custom-fit to its corresponding software. Sandor’s expertise in electrical architecture, optical systems, and silicon development will be key as we push our hardware to the next level of customization. We’re glad to have him at Aurora!
Here’s more from Sandor about why he joined Aurora, what he’s looking to accomplish, and how he spends his time when he’s not building hardware…
Q: You could have joined many different companies, but you chose Aurora. Why?
It’s exciting to join during such a high-growth phase. The technical challenges are interesting and complex, and we have the opportunity to save lives with this technology. I’m also looking forward to working with this impressive team — people who designed advanced lidar systems, developed leading consumer electronics, and deployed some of the most advanced automotive systems out there today. It’s rewarding to build hardware when you know it will be infused with best-in-class software.
Q: What’s top of mind for you right now?
Hiring is a top priority. We’re looking to build out our world-class team as we integrate the Aurora Driver into more and more platforms.
Scaling from our current size to a large fleet of cars powered by the Aurora Driver is another huge priority for us, and an area where I definitely have some experience. When Micron acquired Photobit, where I began my career, I helped grow a small startup into a market-leading billion-dollar business. I’ve since worked in a variety of business and engineering roles where I’ve seen the importance of manufacturing excellence, a focused strategy, and delivering great products that delight customers.
Q: How do you think about building and leading teams?
Focus. It’s one of the values at Aurora, and something I think a lot about. The most important role of a leader is to set direction. I am not going to tell an engineer how to build a circuit board, but I will make sure we’re all rowing in the right direction. I’ve found over the years that teams don’t get frustrated when they have a lot of work, they get frustrated when they have unfocused work.
Q: What should engineers considering applying to Aurora’s hardware team know?
It’s important to work at a company where it’s safe to do good engineering. Yes, there will always be tradeoffs. But I know that Aurora doesn’t believe in cutting corners. Here we work with urgency, but we do things the right way.
Q: What do you do when you’re not at work?
I have young kids, so I spend a lot of time with my family. We enjoy hiking and my favorite hike is Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. We also love traveling and recently went to London. Soon, I’d like to visit South America. I am also obsessed with baseball and have enjoyed helping to coach my son’s Little League teams.