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Hyundai and VW sign partnership agreement with US autonomous vehicle startup

Car manufacturing giants Hyundai and Volkswagen have announced that they’ve signed a partnership agreement with US autonomous vehicle technology firm Aurora Innovation, which is spearheaded by a number of former executives from Google, Tesla and Uber.

A spokesperson from VW said the collaboration would help accelerate the development and deployment of self-driving cars across the world. Hyundai have claimed that they will have their autonomous vehicles in the market by 2021. The partnership is just the latest in a string of tie-ups between traditional auto companies and tech firms as they race to be first with self-driving vehicles.

Aurora Innovation is headquartered in Pittsburgh and also has a facility in Palo Alto. The company was founded last year by former Tesla executive Sterling Anderson and former Uber autonomous vehicle leader Drew Bagnell.

Urmson left Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2016 after more than seven years of work on its autonomous vehicles. At Tesla Inc., Anderson led development of the company's semi-autonomous Autopilot system after its initial release, and led development of the Model X SUV, according to Aurora's website. Bagnell was a founding member of Uber Technologies Inc.’s Advanced Technology Center that's working on autonomous cars in Pittsburgh.

German car manufacturing colossus VW has declared that it firmly believes the collaboration with Aurora Innovation and Hyundai will help it delver autonomous technology to all of its brands. It disclosed that it had in fact been working with the US self-driving startup for the last six months, and revealed that it had integrated sensors, hardware and software developed by the company into its VW vehicles.

Hyundai Motor Co. said its partnership with Aurora will bring to market autonomous vehicles that can operate without human input in most conditions. It has not yet been disclosed how the first batch of self-driving cars developed by the partnership will be utilized, although analysts believe it will be for commercial use through ride-hailing services, as oppose to selling the vehicles directly to consumers.

Hyundai earlier joined with Cisco Systems Inc. and Baidu Inc. to collaborate on internet-connected cars. It has also set up a $45-million fund with South Korea's SK Telecom and Hanwha Asset Management to invest in artificial intelligence start-ups worldwide.

The South Korean automaker plans to share more details of its project with Aurora during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, where it will also unveil the brand name of a new fuel-cell SUV that will be tested for self-driving technology.