Nuro, a self-driving delivery startup, has raised $500 million in its latest funding round.
Nuro’s product fits squarely between the delivery and ecommerce industries that have boomed amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company specializes in developing electric autonomous vehicles that have one purpose: the transportation of products from a storefront to a customer’s homes.
While this isn’t an entirely novel concept, the California-based startup has been able to claim multiple firsts since the company was founded in 2016. Nuro’s second generation vehicle, the R2, is the first autonomous vehicle that’s legally allowed to operate without side mirrors or windshields. The R2 is also the first vehicle to have been autonomously driven in states like California, Texas, and Arizona.
Read more: A cofounder of the Softbank-funded self-driving startup Nuro reveals his plan to make money off delivery robots without charging fees
Its latest $500 million round saw new investors like Baillie Gifford and Fidelity Management and Research, as well as existing investors like Greylock Partners and SoftBank Vision Fund 1.
The autonomous vehicle can deliver a variety of goods to ease the need for running in-person errands, according to its maker.
This is evident in the array of Nuro’s partnerships, which include grocery delivery with Kroger and Walmart, pizza drop-offs with Domino’s Pizza, and prescription deliveries with CVS.
The company is now operating in Houston in partnership with Kroger and CVS with the startup’s R2 and first generation vehicle, a self-driving Prius.
The electric self-driving R2 vehicle is reliant on artificial intelligence and an array of equipment to guide it on the streets.
For example, the R2 is equipped with 12 cameras that provide a 360-degree view of its surroundings.
It also has audio and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors and radars to help the vehicle better orient itself to its surroundings, according to its maker.
The Nuro vehicles also operate at or under 25 miles-per-hour for safety purposes.
And because there are no passengers or steering equipment, the vehicle is lighter than a typical delivery car.
Placing a delivery order with Nuro is similar to ordering food on platforms like DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Customers can make an online or in-app order and select a designated delivery time.
The customers can then track the vehicle’s location, and when the order arrives at the destination’s curbside, the user will receive a security code to open the cargo holding compartment.