VW nears self-driving deal with Ford, exits Aurora alliance

VW nears self-driving deal with Ford, exits Aurora alliance
Volkswagen ended a self-driving technology partnership with Silicon Valley startup Aurora Innovation Inc. as it draws closer to a broader collaboration on autonomous cars with Ford.

“The activities under our partnership have been concluded,” a VW spokesman said of its alliance with Aurora in a statement Tuesday.

The German manufacturer announced the tie-up with Aurora to develop autonomous-car technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year to help boost its own activities spearheaded by the Audi premium-car unit.

Meanwhile, months of negotiations with Ford and its autonomous affiliate Argo AI are near fruition and a deal could be announced as early as July, people familiar with the situation said.

Most of the thorniest issues have been resolved and the two companies envision a comprehensive collaboration creating a global colossus in the self-driving space, these people said.

The partnership would rival Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise unit in ambition and scope, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified revealing internal discussions.

Self-driving cars have emerged as key battleground between automakers and technology giants in the race to develop robo-taxis and driverless delivery vehicles. These programs require investments in the billions of dollars, while regulatory frameworks vary across the globe, complicating testing and deployment.

VW wants stake in Ford autonomous vehicles, will build Ford-based truck

Volkswagen and Ford, which agreed to co-produce vans and pickups earlier this year, have been discussing an investment in Argo AI, the Ford-backed autonomous vehicle startup, people familiar with the talks have said. The automakers discussed an approximate valuation for Argo of US$4 billion, one of the people said.

Ford said its talks with Volkswagen are ongoing but did not provide specifics on the extent of progress. “Discussions have been productive across a number of areas. We’ll share updates as details become more firm,” it said in a statement. VW declined to comment on the status of the talks.

Aurora, which raised over half a billion dollars in February from backers including Sequoia Capital and Inc., announced on Monday it will partner with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to develop and deploy a fleet of self-driving commercial vehicles.

The company is the brainchild of Sterling Anderson, the former director of autonomy for Tesla Inc.; Drew Bagnell from Uber Technologies Inc.; and Chris Urmson, who headed Alphabet’s self-driving car project before it was named Waymo.
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