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RBR50 company Nuro, which is developing autonomous delivery vehicles, added new investors to its $500 million Series C funding round that it announced in November 2020. Joining the round are Woven Capital and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
This is the first investment for Woven Capital, which was established in January 2021 as the investment arm of Woven Planet Group. Woven Planet Group spun out of Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development (TRI-AD) in January 2021. Woven Capital is an $800 million global fund that invests in growth-stage companies developing technologies in areas such as autonomous mobility, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data and analytics, connectivity, and smart cities. Woven Capital works closely with Toyota AI Ventures.
Chiptole said its investment in Mountain View, Calif.-based Nuro is part of its exploration of “disruptive opportunities outside of traditional third-party partnerships.” Chipotle said its digital business grew 174% in 2020, compared to the prior year, with about half of those digital sales coming from delivery. The growth was in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are always seeking opportunities that provide innovative solutions for increasing access and convenience for our guests,” said Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief technology officer. “Nuro could change the traditional delivery model and we believe consumers are going to continue to seek options and additional access points for how and where they enjoy their food.”
In April 2020, Nuro’s R2 delivered medical supplies to COVID-19 patients at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Nuro has also partnered with brands such as CVS, Walmart, Domino’s, and Kroger, is currently providing delivery services in the Houston area.
Unlike many other autonomous vehicle companies, Nuro has engineered its electric self-driving road vehicles to transport goods instead of people. 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.
The Nuro R2 was granted an exemption by the U.S. Department of Transportation that allows it to be tested on public roads without certain features of traditional, passenger-carrying vehicles. For example, it lacks side mirrors, rear visibility, and a windshield that can be seen through, all of which are required in human-driven vehicles, according to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The exemption also permits the Nuro R2 to operate its rearview cameras while moving forward, since the vehicle will never be occupied by a human driver who could be distracted by the rear video display.
In February 2019, Nuro raised $940 million in Series B round that was led by the Softbank Vision Fund. Nuro was founded in 2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, both former Alphabet engineers who worked on the company’s autonomous vehicle efforts, which have since become Waymo. Andrew Clare, Nuro’s head of robots, delivered a keynote at RoboBusiness Direct called “Building Zero Occupant Autonomous Vehicles to Accelerate the Benefits of Robotics Today.” You can listen to the session on demand here.