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Volkswagen reportedly tried to buy Aurora, Pittsburgh’s self-driving car startup

Aaron Aupperlee
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Aurora Innovation puts a Lincoln equipped with its self-driving technology on display during an open house at its Pittsburgh office in June 2018.

Volkswagen apparently wants to be more than just friends with Aurora Innovation, a self-driving car company testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh.

The German auto giant has already partnered with Aurora to develop self-driving technology, but according to Bloomberg, VW made a pass at buying the startup.

Bloomberg reported that Aurora, founded by a trio of self-driving superstars from Google, Telsa and Uber, turned down the offer .

Aurora declined to comment on the report. Bloomberg based its report on anonymous sources familiar with the discussions.

Aurora rebuffed VW because it didn’t want to be tied down by a relationship with only one car company, according to Bloomberg. That meshes with what Sterling Anderson, one of Aurora’s co-founders, has told the Tribune-Review about the company’s approach to developing self-driving technology.

Aurora already has partnerships with VW, Hyundai and the Chinese electric car startup BYTON. The company raised $90 million in a round of funding this year.

Exclusive relationships are not uncommon among self-driving car companies and major auto manufacturers. Ford invested $1 billion in Pittsburgh startup Argo AI for it to develop self-driving tech for its vehicles. GM bought Cruise, a California-based startup, two years ago for about a billion.

Anderson said Aurora hopes to design self-driving technology that can work with a number of vehicles from different manufacturers.

“We want to make sure that as many people as possible have access to the benefits of self-driving,” Anderson told the Trib when Aurora first launched in Pittsburgh . “Our hope is simply to make a positive difference and catalyze this important change in mobility.”

Aurora was founded more than a year ago by Anderson, the former head of Tesla’s Autopilot program; Chris Urmson, who helped start Google’s self-driving car program, and Drew Bagnell, who led autonomy and perception at Uber’s Advanced Technology Group in Pittsburgh. Urmson and Bagnell have ties to Carnegie Mellon University. The company has offices in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Palo Alto, California.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Aaron at 412-336-8448, [email protected] or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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