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Even as the race to self-driving cars continues, companies developing autonomous trucks and delivery vehicles are also getting investor interest, particularly during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nuro today announced that it is raising a $500 million Series C round of funding. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s autonomous delivery vehicles have been delivering goods from pizza to prescriptions to the public since 2018.
Nuro’s staff includes experts in robotics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and product design, and it was a 2020 RBR50 innovation award winner. The company, which has partnered with brands such as CVS, Walmart, Domino’s, and Kroger, is currently providing delivery services in the Houston area.
R2 responds to shift in consumer demand
Unlike many other autonomous vehicle companies, Nuro has engineered its electric self-driving road vehicles to transport goods instead of people. The company, which was founded in 2016, said its second-generation R2 vehicle is designed to autonomously deliver a wide range of goods — including prepared food, groceries, medicine, and retail products – safely and securely.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented shift in consumer demand for safe and affordable local delivery services,” stated Jiajun Zhu, co-founder and CEO of Nuro. “This funding, which brings us together with many of the world’s top investors, positions Nuro confidently toward a future where our world-class technology is adopted into people’s everyday lives.”
In April, Nuro’s R2 delivered medical supplies to COVID-19 patients at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. The need to maintain social distancing, accelerating e-commerce demand, and advances in safe autonomy will lead to more robotic deliveries in the near future, according to retail, supply chain, and logistics industry observers.
Nuro builds on autonomous delivery advances
Nuro previously raised $940 million in Series B funding in February 2019. The latest round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., with participation from new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Co. and Baillie Gifford. The round also includes existing investors such as SoftBank Vision Fund 1 and Greylock.
The company said that it has already achieved milestones such as obtaining 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). Nuro added that its R2 robot-as-a-service (RaaS) offering is operating in three states — California, Texas, and Arizona — with no drivers, human occupants, or chase cars.
“This significant capital injection, combined with strong results across all aspects of its business, demonstrates Nuro’s position as a leader in autonomous goods delivery, and is a meaningful step towards achieving its vision of accelerating the benefits of robotics for everyday life,” the company said.