Hyundai, Kia in driver’s seat as VW exits its deal with self-driving car startup

Hyundai and Kia last week upped their investment in autonomous car technology startup Aurora Innovation just as Volkswagen stepped away from its partnership with Aurora.

Specifically, the investment will expand self-driving technology research to more Hyundai and Kia models and help build a platform suitable for the brands’ future autonomous cars. The Korean automakers praised Aurora’s self-driving technology suite, which includes cameras, radar, lidar, and software modules. Each helps the self-driving car make sense of the world around it to operate safely.

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While Hyundai and Kia cozy up to Aurora Innovation, VW has shut the door. A report from The Financial Times last Wednesday said the German automaker had ended a previous partnership with the company without giving an explicit reason why. VW also reportedly tried to purchase the startup company at one point to catch up in self-driving car technology, but the company declined its offer. Instead, Aurora Innovation signed partnerships with VW, Hyundai, Kia, and China’s Byton. Following the news VW had ended its partnership, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced it had made a deal for self-driving commercial vehicles.

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VW will likely instead focus on a possible tie-up with Ford’s Argo AI. Ford purchased the company to also take a stronger foothold in the autonomous car segment, and Ford ties with VW strengthened earlier this year as the two carved out an alliance for electric cars, commercial vehicles, and self-driving vehicles. Both VW and Ford could create their own joint venture for mobility in the near future, too.

Back at Hyundai and Kia, the two want to work with Aurora Innovation to build Level 4 self-driving cars in 2021. Level 4 self-driving cars can operate on their own accord and do not need to hand controls back over to a human if an autonomous system fails.

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