The autonomous delivery startup Nuro has raised $ 940 million with the Softbank Vision Fund, which makes it one of the most financed startups in the driverless car sector. The news comes after Nuro became one of the first startups in the world to start operating a commercial service without a driver on public roads.
Under an agreement announced last year, a Fry & # 39; s Foods store, owned by Kroger, in the Phoenix area, is using Nuro's technology to deliver food to nearby customers. Initially, deliveries were made by modified Toyota Priuses. But in December, Nuro added two custom-designed robots to its fleet. These robots are smaller than a conventional car and are completely driverless, they do not even have interior space for a human driver to sit on.
"Our goal this year is to really scale up an entire city of operations," CEO Dave Ferguson told Ars last week.
The Nuro robot has a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour (40 km / h), which simplified the jump to a completely driverless operation. A vehicle moving at 25 miles per hour has a much shorter braking distance than a vehicle traveling at 65 miles per hour. That means that the vehicle does not need to see later and that its software does not need to predict the behavior of other vehicles with much anticipation. In the rare case that a Nuro robot makes someone run over, its lower mass and speed means that it is also much less likely to cause serious damage.
While the two custom Nuro robots do not have a driver, they are currently being followed by human-powered vehicles with the ability to intervene if the robots do not work. Ferguson told Ars that he hopes to stop using the chase vehicles next quarter.
Nuro was founded in 2016 by Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, both veterans of Google's auto-management project. The latest round of fundraising represents a dramatic 10-fold increase over the previous round of funding from Nuro. A year ago, Nuro raised $ 92 million.