Nuro.ai, which is working on self-driving vehicles, said today that it has received $940 million from the SoftBank Vision Fund. This marks a major push in the ground delivery space and another move by SoftBank to take leadership in automation.
Other investors in Mountain View, Calif.-based Nuro include Greylock Partners and Gaorong Capital. The privately held company has raised more than $1 billion so far. Last month, Nuro’s Series A round was $92 million.
Nuro was founded in 2016 by two engineers from Google. It has moved from Toyota Priuses to robotic vehicles, which don’t have all the requirements as self-driving cars that would have to operate at higher speeds and in more varied environments, noted Ars Technica.
“We’ve spent the last two and a half years building an amazing team, launching our first unmanned service, working with incredible partners, and creating technology to fundamentally improve our daily lives,” stated Dave Ferguson, co-founder of Nuro. “This partnership [with SoftBank] gives us the opportunity to take the next step in realizing our vision for local commerce and the broad application of our technology.”
Nuro said it will use the funding to hire more people, scale up its fleet, expand its service to new locations, develop its technology, and add partners.
Nuro part of drive to automated mobility services
For example, Google self-driving spinoff Waymo has partnered with Walmart for tests of autonomous grocery deliveries in Arizona.
At CES 2019, ANYbotics and Continental demonstrated how a driverless shuttle and robot dogs could deliver parcels.
General Motors’ Cruise Automation unit last month partnered with DoorDash to test food delivery in San Francisco. Cruise raised $1.65 billion last year with help from the SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda.
Amazon is testing its Scout delivery robot near Seattle, and Starship Technologies’ mobile robots have been in numerous cities and, most recently, delivering food on the George Mason University campus. The global market for delivery robots will grow from $11.9 million last year to $34 million by 2024, predicts Markets and Markets.
Nuro is also in trials with grocery chain Kroger and licenses its software stack to self-driving truck company Ike, which raised $52 million last week. Nuro currently has vehicles in Arizona, California, and Texas.
SoftBank spreads wealth among robotics companies
In addition to its investments in other technologies and industries, Tokyo-based SoftBank Group Corp. has supported multiple robotics companies and delivery services, including DoorDash and Zume Pizza.
In 2012, SoftBank purchased Aldebaran, which offered the Pepper and Nao humanoid robots and is now SoftBank Robotics. In addition, it has partnered with Simbe Robotics on deployments of Simbe’s Tally retail inventory robot.
In addition, SoftBank has invested in Cruise, Uber, and Nvidia, observed The Verge.
One of SoftBank’s most visible moves was its 2017 purchase of Boston Dynamics, whose legged robots are popular thanks to their acrobatics in online videos. SoftBank last summer pumped $37 million into Boston Dynamics, which plans to sell a commercial version of its SpotMini this year. The quadruped robot could help solve the last-mile problems of curbs and stairs.
SoftBank’s robotics strategy may still be evolving, but it is clearly interested in attaining global robotics leadership.