Nuro Raises $600 Million, Valuation Reaches $8.6 Billion

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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nuro raises 600 million valuation reaches 8 6 billion

While the concept of mobility has often turned out to be a buzz phrase used by executives unsure of where to place hypothetical revenue streams and burgeoning technologies, it has simultaneously yielded a handful of enterprising business premises with the potential to stand on their own. Nuro, the American robotics company fielding pint-sized delivery drones, is among them and has made a case for itself by eliminating humans from the equation entirely and providing unique scenarios for its services.

The startup has been getting a smattering of positive attention since its formation in 2015 and recently raised $600 million during its latest funding round, bringing its valuation to an impressive $8.6 billion.

According to the robotics firm, financing was led by Tiger Global Management with help from Baillie Gifford, Fidelity Management & Research Company, LLC, Gaorong Capital, Google, Kroger, SoftBank Vision Fund 1, various accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Woven Capital, and other investors participating in the company’s Series D funding round.

“We’re thrilled to have the backing of these prominent investors and world class companies, and honored that they support our vision of improving communities and revitalizing local commerce,” stated Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president. “We believe this investment will allow us to accelerate our commercialization strategy and better everyday life with Nuro’s technology.”

Said commercialization pertains to the expansion of the company’s R2 “zero-occupant autonomous delivery vehicles” currently being tested in several American cities. We’ve even seen them serving as delivery bots for Domino’s Pizza without incident. Kroger has similarly opted to see how the company handles grocery drop-offs in select areas, with leadership reportedly being pleased with the arrangement.

“Kroger launched its partnership with Nuro in 2018 to explore grocery delivery through autonomous vehicles,” said Yael Cosset, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer for Kroger. “Since then, Kroger and Nuro completed thousands of deliveries to our customers — driving innovation that supports our expanding seamless ecosystem by creating consistent and rewarding customer experiences with scalable, sustainable, and profitable solutions.”

Nuro’s greatest attributes haven’t been perfected yet, however. While the company has previously said one of its largest strengths will be sending autonomous drones into disaster areas (e.g. nuclear emergencies, viral outbreaks, wildfire zones, war-torn cities) to bring in the necessary goods, we’ve continued seeing drones accompanied by human supervisors riding around on electric scooters for mundane delivery tasks. Though this is hardly a phenomenon limited to Nuro. True vehicular autonomy has likewise remained elusive for legacy automakers boasting far more capital to fling at R&D.

It would be a lie to suggest Nuro had fallen behind the pack — and not just because it’s pursuing for different use case for AVs than businesses who also happen to sell passenger cars.

Nuro’s co-founders, Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, each worked on the Google self-driving car project that later became Waymo and the company has showcased its delivery robots are capable of operating independently during specialized testing in California, Texas, and Arizona. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also gave Nuro approval to deploy up to 5,000 R2 vehicles on public roads in 2020, dividing the quota between two years. In August, the company announced it was setting aside $40 million to construct a factory and closed-course test track for its robotic delivery vehicles in Nevada. Nuro said the facilities will encompass 125,000 square feet of space across at least 80 acres of property, some of which would be shared with the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

During the funding announcement, the company reiterated its commitments in Nevada and recent negotiations that led to a five-year partnership with FedEx. Nuro has since signed onto another strategic alliance with Google Cloud to “support the massive scale and capacity required to run self-driving simulation workloads, machine learning to improve model accuracy, and storage to manage important data from the vehicles.”

[Images: Nuro]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • Crosley Crosley on Nov 04, 2021

    It's a good idea, but will it increase congestion when a bunch of slow moving vehicles clog our roads?

    • CoastieLenn CoastieLenn on Nov 04, 2021

      Yeah that's something else they should iron out. If these bots max out at 25mph, but their delivery makes them have to run down 45-55mph main thoroughfares, how does that play out?

  • Super555 Super555 on Nov 11, 2021

    Test markets should be Flint, MI and Baltimore, MD. Please post videos of said tests. Popcorn ready.

    • Mcs Mcs on Nov 11, 2021

      I can't wait for the youtube videos!! Flint and Baltimore! Could they add Chicago too? Maybe the Bronx?

  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.