Nuro’s autonomous automated vehicles are targeting the goods delivery segment. Smaller in size than a conventional sedan, they can be customized to hold upto 10 shopping bags, or be configured to accomodate custom inserts, such as a dry-cleaning rack, a heating or a cooling unit.
On Tuesday, Nuro, a Silicon Valley start-up firm disclosed, it has raised $92 million to launch a self-driving delivery vehicle.
The development sees Nuro joining the race, along with little known-companies, tech giants, carmakers and shippers in developing autonomous vehicles for local commerce.
Founded by two former engineers from Google’s self-driving car project, Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, chose to focus on the autonomous goods delivery market rather than the high-profile self-driving taxi market, to gain traction in this segment.
Shaped like a minivan and at about half the width of a traditional passenger sedan, Nuro’s vehicle takes up less room on the road than a traditional car. This feature makes its cars safer on the road which are packed with other vehicles and pedestrians, said Nuro.
With compartments built into its sides which can hold almost 10 shopping bags, they can also be configured to accommodate custom inserts such as a cooling or a heating element and even a dry-cleaning rack.
Nuro’s vehicle, the result after 18 months of development, is expected to operate in limited service areas by the end of 2018, said Ferguson.
The firm is currently in talks with retailers, big and small, as well as with potential partners who could build the vehicle.
Falling into the last mile delivery services, Nuro’s vehicle will face competition from a wide range of players, including established automakers, such as Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor Co as well as shipping companies like DHL and startups from Udelv to Starship Technologies.
Although Nuru’s series A funding, led by private equity firm Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners, a venture firm, was completed midway through 2017, it was only disclosed on Tuesday, said Nuro.
Nuro’s vehicles could be a “powerful tool” for local businesses, including shoe repair shops and convenience stores who want their goods to move more quickly into the hands of their customers, who now demand even faster service at increased convenience, said Ferguson.
Since they are not intended to be used on freeways, they will feature a shorter-range radar and lidar sensors, said Ferguson.