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Maryland-based Robotic Research has spent the better part of two decades developing autonomous driving technology for the Department of Defense. Historically, its autonomous trucks have operated in unstructured environments that aren’t mapped and don’t have lined roads or GPS.
Thanks to $228 million in Series A funding, the first outside capital the company has raised, Robotic Research is launching a commercial division called RR.AI. This new endeavor will develop autonomous driving technology for commercial truck, bus, drayage and logistics vehicles.
RR.AI’s vehicle-agnostic autonomy kit, AutoDrive, has already been integrated in a variety of vehicles, including heavy-duty transit buses, Class 8 trucks, and yard trucks. AutoDrive can be used on-road, off-road, or in the yard, providing a 360° autonomous driving solution that spans a variety of operational design domains (ODDs). The company said AutoDrive can do all of this without relying on GPS connectivity.
In 2020, Robotic Research won a contract with the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The goal of the pilot project was to develop three 40-foot, Level 4 autonomous buses that would have human safety drivers on board. Robotic Research has also worked with Canadian sawmills. Its autonomous trucks moved along planned routes from harvesting sites to the sawmill.
Alberto Lacaze, CEO, Robotic Research, has said the company’s focused on “low-hanging fruit” applications that have few regulations.
“This investment reflects our success in developing autonomous solutions for our U.S. government customers, and will provide the resources needed to meet our growing commercial customer demand and the expansion of our commercial efforts,” said Lacaze. “Our long history and experience has enabled us to develop a proven solution that is not only rugged, safe, and reliable, but also versatile and ideal for operating across a variety of environments, weather conditions, and use cases.”
The Series A funding was led by the SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Enlightenment Capital. Crescent Cove Advisors, Henry Crown and LiDAR maker Luminar also participated in the round. This is Luminar’s first strategic equity investment. Luminar went public in late 2020 via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
“We believe that autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to reshape how goods and people are moved around,” said Akshay Naheta, senior vice president of SoftBank Group and former managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “Robotic Research has a track record of operating in the commercial sector and has built a differentiated autonomy solution by focusing on tangible, revenue-generating opportunities. We are thrilled to be a financial partner and provide resources needed to accelerate the commercialization of Robotic Research’s solutions.”