Aurora to build lidar research and development facility in..

First look: Aurora to Build Lidar Research and Development Facility in Bozeman, Montana

Autonomous vehicle company Aurora Innovation Inc. plans to build a 78,000-square-foot research and development facility in Bozeman, Montana, that will employ up to 200 workers following its construction, which is currently undergoing the permitting process for a groundbreaking that is anticipated to take place in the coming months.

Aurora Lidar Research
Photo caption courtesy Aurora: As a nod to Aurora’s FirstLight lidar, which uses light to determine the location and velocity of objects around it, the design inspiration for Aurora’s new facility is “the movement of light.”

The facility will serve as a central location for Strip District-based Aurora (NASDAQ: AUR) to pioneer its FirstLight Lidar, a proprietary sensor tech that’s capable of allowing the company’s AV systems to have long-distance sensing and highway driving capabilities by using light emitted from a laser in a concept that’s similar to how radar works. Lidar allows Aurora to detect the velocity, distance and shape of the hundreds, if not thousands of objects that pass by self-driving trucks and cars on the road over a given trip.

With the new facility, Aurora will build on its presence in the Treasure State; it has maintained operations out of Montana for years in addition to other employment hubs in the Bay Area of California; North Texas; Seattle, Washington; Louisville, Colorado; and Wixom, Michigan.

“It’s been 3 years since we established a presence in Bozeman,” Sterling Anderson, chief product officer and co-founder of Aurora, said in a tweet. “In that time, we’ve developed a game-changing lidar, grown our presence by 50%, and fallen in love with the state.”

Aurora’s new facility will also aim to tap into the local talent pool and will be located on Montana State University’s Innovation Campus. Montana State is home to numerous photonics engineers and innovations over the past three decades.

“Aurora’s decision to open one of its major facilities on the Innovation Campus is a testament to the value Montana State University brings to the table as the state’s largest research enterprise,” Jason Carter, vice president of research, economic development, and graduate education at MSU, said in an Aurora press release. “We have decades of experience in optics and photonics, and most importantly, we have graduates who are eager to work in cutting-edge industries like self-driving.”

The majority of Aurora’s 1,600-person workforce is employed in the Pittsburgh region. In April, Aurora officially celebrated the opening of its new Strip District headquarters during an event attended by Gov. Tom Wolf and other elected officials.

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