July 20, 2023

Aurora Innovation raises $820M in fresh capital


Aurora Innovation has raised $820 million in new capital. That will get the autonomous trucking developer through commercialization of driverless trucks in 2024 with a financial runway into 2025.

The Pittsburgh-based company raised $600 million in a private placement of 222.2 million shares. Investors paid $2.70 a share. It plans to sell 73.3 million shares to the public at $3 per share.

Aurora shares (NASDAQ: AUR) closed Thursday at $2.92. The stock has more than doubled in price since selling at $1.19 a share in December.

Co-founded by autonomous pioneer Chris Urmson in 2017, Aurora had about $966 million in cash and short-term investments at the end of the first quarter. Urmson told FreightWaves on a Truck Tech appearance in April that despite a strong balance sheet, the company would need more money to get to commercialization.

Vote of confidence for Aurora

“At a time when markets remain uncertain, raising such a large amount from some of Wall Street’s most sophisticated investors demonstrates the market’s belief in Aurora’s progress and our ability to commercialize autonomous vehicles at scale,” a company spokesperson said in an email to FreightWaves on Thursday.

Dave Maday, named CFO in June succeeding Richard Tame, suggested something like the raise might be in the offing. “We’re at a very exciting point as we approach commercialization and enhanced financial performance across the organization,” he said in a June 15 news release.

As some fall away, Aurora advances toward commercialization

Some competitors appear to have slowed development and others have fallen away in the race to autonomy. Aurora has emerged as a leader in high-autonomy trucking. Its goal is to launch trucks on hub-to-hub middle-mile routes with no human driver. Aurora said in April that its system is “feature complete” and all that remains is validation and improving performance.

Aurora partners with OEMs Paccar Inc. and Volvo Group to develop redundant chassis. They have backup capabilities to steer and stop in the event of a critical component failure. The trucks also pull to the side of the road, known as fallback, when they encounter a problem.

‘Full integration’ is critical

“If you look at a common denominator with the companies that are still in the business, and let’s call it looking toward success, they all have a partnership with a truck OEM,” Roger Nielsen, former CEO of Daimler Truck North America, said Wednesday on Truck Tech. “That full integration into the electronics of the vehicle is critical.

“You can’t reverse engineer your autonomous driving stack into an OEM who’s giving you the palm and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t want to cooperate.’ You just can’t do it and make the truck operate properly or safely.”

Being roadworthy also requires automotive-grade hardware. Aurora said in late April it has an exclusive partnership with German supplier Continental AG to build future generations of the Aurora Driver integrated hardware and software systems available in the U.S. in 2027. 

Continental will build autonomous software for Aurora Innovation

Aurora points to driverless trucks in Texas in 2024

Aurora approaches autonomous truck finish line

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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