Amazon invests in self-driving auto startup Aurora

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Aurora Innovation's Lincoln test vehicle

Aurora is among dozens of startups, automakers and large technology companies working on self-driving auto systems, eager to capitalize on a sea change in the transportation industry brought by developments in machine learning.

Aurora Innovation appears to have attracted much of that funding on the strength of its self-driving tech superstar co-founders, who include CEO Chris Urmson, formerly of Google's self-driving auto program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, formerly of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson, who helped lead the development of Tesla's Autopilot.

Aurora Innovation is notable primarily for its leadership.

Aurora is led by Chris Urmson, former head of the Google self-driving vehicle initiative. CEO Chris Urmson was with Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) self-driving vehicle program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, worked for Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson helped lead Tesla's Autopilot development. The company presently employs around 250 workers split between its Bay Area and Pittsburgh campuses. It has partnerships with Byton, Hyundai Motor Co and Volkswagen to develop and test self-driving systems that one day, Urmson said, can be used by a broad range of automakers, fleet owners and other transportation industry players.

The funding round for Aurora Innovation led by Silicon Valley venture capital powerhouse Sequoia reportedly valued the startup launched just two years ago at more than $2.5 billion.

Major automobile companies along with technology giants such as Google, Tesla and Uber have been investing in self-driving tech, touting the safety benefits and the potential for services that let people summon automated rides on demand. Investments previous year from the SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co. pushed Cruise's valuation to $14.6 billion.

The fact that Aurora drew investment from Amazon, which hasn't made many high-profile moves into driverless vehicles, will invite speculation about the online giant's motivations.

T. Rowe Price also invested along with Amazon.com Inc and several venture capital firms.