Robotic delivery system gets $500 million boost

The move towards robotic delivery of goods via autonomous vehicles has moved a step closer with a $500 million investment in one leading developer.

Writing on the company’s website Jiajun Zhu co-founder and CEO of Nuro, based in the US announced it had secured $500 million of series C funding to continue development of the firm’s robotic delivery vehicles.

The firm has developed two generations of its lightweight autonomous delivery vehicle. R2, the second generation vehicle, received the first and only federal exemption for an autonomous vehicle granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). R2 was also the first vehicle to operate fully autonomously on public roads in three different states — California, Texas, and Arizona — with no drivers, no occupants, and no chase cars.

“When we started Nuro, my co-founder Dave [Ferguson] and I set out to build a team that would apply its core expertise in robotics to develop products that can free us to use our own time on the things and people we value most,” he said. “For our first product, we decided to focus on building an all-new electric self-driving vehicle to transport goods instead of people. Something that could dramatically reduce the time we spend in cars picking things up from stores. It turns out that we all spend so much time doing this that it’s roughly equivalent to a month’s worth of unpaid work every year for each American.”

Mr Zhu added Nuro was founded a little over 4 years ago with “the mission of accelerating the benefits of robotics for everyday life”.

The funding round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, with participation from new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company, LLC. and Baillie Gifford. Existing investors SoftBank Vision Fund 1 and Greylock have also investing in the new round.

“We now know that our industry, self-driving local delivery, will not only make it easier to buy groceries, hot food, prescription drugs, and other products, but will also positively impact local economies, and serve low-income communities living in food deserts,” added Mr Zhu. “And during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned that contactless delivery of goods — the service R2 provides — can help reduce the spread. The underlying need and excitement for a better way of moving local goods is shared by our growing list of partners, including Domino’s, Walmart, Kroger, and CVS.”