Apr 5, 2017 - Technology

Google's former self-driving car guru raises cash for his own startup

James Duncan Davidson / TED

Aurora Innovation, the stealth startup founded by the former CTO of Alphabet's self-driving car project, has raised over $3 million in venture capital funding, according to an SEC filing.

The team: Along with CEO Chris Urmson, who left Alphabet last year, the startup also boasts Sterling Anderson, who previously oversaw Tesla's Autopilot software. The company has also hired several of Uber's self-driving car engineers in Pittsburgh (many of which Uber lured away from Carnegie Mellon a couple of years ago), as well as engineers who have worked at Tesla, Nvidia, and Google. Many of them self-identify on LinkedIn as working for "Stealthy McStartup."

Tesla tangle: About a month before Alphabet's self-driving car unit sued Uber, alleging trade secret theft and breach of non-poaching agreement, Tesla Motors filed an eerily similar lawsuit against Aurora and Anderson. In the complaint, Tesla says that Anderson downloaded and kept proprietary company files to his personal computer, attempted to poach Tesla employees (only two accepted), and even worked on Aurora with Urmson while still employed by Tesla.

The company: Aurora will develop a "full package" of software, hardware, and data to sell to automakers who want to build their own autonomous cars, according to Recode, which first reported on Urmson's new project.

The financing: The company raised just over $3.1 million last month. Allen & Company managing director Ian Smith is listed as member of Aurora's board, likely a sign that his firm invested. No other backers were disclosed, although it's likely that Aurora plans to soon raise a larger institutional round.

Go deeper