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SoftBank Robotics America (SBRA), the North American arm of Softbank, today announced a strategic development and equity partnership with Autonomous Solutions Inc. (ASI), a developer of industrial ground vehicle automation. The partnership will expedite the development and deployment of a wide range of autonomous commercial service vehicles. As part of the agreement, SBRA has acquired a minority stake in ASI.
Softbank has invested in a variety of indoor autonomous mobile robot solutions over the last decade. This list includes solutions such as Pepper and Whiz. The company stopped production of Pepper in 2020, and then sold off the IP and resources recently to United Robotics Group in April, 2022.
The Whiz + Gambit solution, an autonomous floor cleaning robot, has found success throughout the world, and Softbank continues to market, sell and support this solution worldwide.
A focus on the outdoors
With a focus on outdoor automation, this new partnership will accelerate the development of practical landscaping care solutions and logistics solutions (i.e. warehouse terminals and shipping ports). As labor shortages continue in the landscaping and logistics industries in the wake of the pandemic, SBRA’s expansion into the outdoor automation market is an extension of the indoor automated solutions that the company has successfully commercialized across multiple industries.
Both of these markets have thriving and emerging competition, validating the market opportunity. But it is still early, and there is room for any number of autonomous solutions. The global labor shortage in these market segments support the need for additional automation. This new market direction for Softbank appears to be more strategic.
With over 21 years of data and customer feedback from deployed solutions, ASI has developed a highly scalable hardware and software platform that is helping partners in markets like Mining and Automotive Testing exceed human performance. Automation and optimization of adjacent vehicle applications is fast, thanks to the ability to retrofit new and existing vehicle fleets and the ability to control them from anywhere in the world.
“We are very excited to work with ASI. With decades of cross industry data and customer interaction and feedback, their technology platform Mobius is uniquely positioned for immediate scalable commercialization,” said Brady Watkins, General Manager of SoftBank Robotics America. “This partnership enables SBRA to expand our focus on automation by addressing the same labor concerns for outdoor work that we have answered with our indoor solutions.”
“SoftBank Robotics America is leading the way in the scaling of robot commercialization and we are thrilled with the complementary strengths we are now fusing together to solve the crippling labor and efficiency challenges facing industry,” said Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions Inc.