SAN FRANCISCO: Volkswagen and Hyundai are separately teaming up with an autonomous vehicle tech start-up based in Silicon Valley with the aim of launching self-driving cars by 2021.

The German and South Korean automakers will work with Aurora Innovation, which was founded just a year ago by Chris Urmson, the former head of Google’s self-driving car program.

Other important members of the Aurora team include former Tesla executive Sterling Anderson and Drew Bagnell, who helped start Uber’s autonomous car operation in Pittsburgh.

According to the Wall Street Journal, executives from both Volkswagen and Hyundai said in interviews that they intend to incorporate Aurora’s self-driving software into production vehicles by 2021.

“There is no overlap in competition with Aurora,” said Johann Jungwirth, Chief Digital Officer at Volkswagen Group. “You can imagine working with others in this field and immediately you have competition.”

Volkswagen, which has been working with Aurora for the past six months, intends to pilot some test vehicles this year before rolling out several hundred in 2019, rising to more than a thousand in 2020.

The next stage of its strategy will involve the roll out of autonomous vehicles in 2021 in up to five cities where customers will be able to hail robot cars.

“We can be faster to market, and we can actually have a safer road to market by partnering,” Jungwirth explained.

Meanwhile, Hyundai, which has already joined with Cisco Systems and Baidu to develop internet-connected cars, aims to develop robot taxis with Aurora with a view to making them commercially viable by 2021.

“We know the future of transportation is autonomous and autonomous driving technology needs to be proven in the real-world to accelerate deployment in a safe and scalable manner,” said Woong Chul Yang, Vice-Chairman of Hyundai, in a statement.

“Combining our advanced vehicle technology that embeds the latest safety features with Aurora’s leading suite of Level 4 autonomous technology will advance this revolution in mobility with Hyundai in a leadership position.”

Sourced from Wall Street Journal, Hyundai; additional content by WARC staff