Not every self-driving car has to be able to move passengers from point A to point B. Take, for example, Nuro: The startup just revealed their unique autonomous vehicle platform, which is more of a mobile small logistics platform than a self-driving car.
The company, which has been working away in stealth mode in Mountain View until now, has raised a $92 million Series A round led by Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners to help make its unique vision of autonomous transport take shape.
Nuro’s vehicle is a small, narrow box on wheels, which is about half the width of a regular car, and which is designed to be a lightweight way to get goods from a local business to a customer, or from one person to another within a neighborhood or city. The platform is just one example of what Nuro wants to do, however; the startup bills itself as a product company focused on bringing “the benefits of robotics” to everyday use and ordinary people.
Nuro’s AV also operates completely autonomously, and looks like something you’d see on a Moon base in a retro-futuristic sci-fi show. There’s a pin pad for user interaction, so that only the right customer can access the contents stored within, and a top-mounted sensor array that includes LiDAR, optical cameras and radar (other sensors are located around the vehicle to enable its autonomous driving).
The young startup’s goal is to partner with businesses to set up transportation services. You can easily imagine this slotting in nicely to something like Uber Eats, and bringing food from the local lunch spot to offices around where people are hungry but can’t make the trip out to their usual places in person. Or, these could support Amazon’s last mile needs for in-city delivery, for example. Nuro isn’t yet talking about specific partnerships, however.
This fit-for-purpose vehicle and dedicated focus could help Nuro accomplish some of the vision that Ford has for its AV program, for instance, with potentially fewer barriers to deployment in limited markets and specifically bounded environments. It’s still early days for the startup, however, and it’s also competing in some ways with more established young companies like Starship Robotics. Still, it’s a neat first product and an interesting vision.