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Silicon Valley Autonomous Delivery Vehicle Startup Nuro Closes on $500 Million Series C Funding Round

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【Summary】Silicon Valley-based startup Nuro, which is building compact autonomous delivery vehicles that can carry groceries, restaurant meals or parcels, closed on its latest $500 million Series C financing round. Nuro’s latest financing includes the first investment by Woven Capital, the newly established growth stage fund from Woven Planet, a Toyota subsidiary.

FutureCar Staff    Mar 26, 2021 12:30 PM PT
Silicon Valley Autonomous Delivery Vehicle Startup Nuro Closes on $500 Million Series C Funding Round

Silicon Valley-based startup Nuro, which is building compact autonomous delivery vehicles that can carry groceries, restaurant meals or parcels, announced it closed on its latest $500 million Series C financing round. 

Nuro's latest financing includes the first investment by Woven Capital, the newly established growth stage fund from Woven Planet, a Toyota subsidiary. Also participating was restaurant chain Chipotle, indicating that it might use Nuro's autonomous vehicles for food deliveries in the future. 

Nuro's Series C round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., with participation from new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company and Baillie Gifford.

The recent  investments give Nuro a valuation of over $5 billion, as the industry inches closer to commercializing autonomous delivery services.

"We are thrilled to have the backing of this tremendous group of best-in-class investors to shape the future of mobility for people across the globe," said Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president. "The support of these financial and strategic investors from multiple continents will be a huge boost to Nuro as we commercialize and scale our local delivery product."

The $500 million funding round was announced in Nov 2020.

Nuro was founded in 2016 by Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. Both founders were former Google engineers  Zhu was one of the founding engineers of Google's self-driving car project, which is now known as Waymo. The two met when Ferguson joined Waymo in 2011 as a principal machine learning engineer.

Nuro is based in Mountain View, California. 

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Nuro stands out from other startups developing autonomous driving technology for automakers or EV startups like Lucid Motors building electric passenger vehicles.

Instead, Nuro is developing tiny autonomous delivery vehicles that operate at lower speeds in urban areas. The compact vehicles are not designed for a human operator and do have a steering wheel of pedals. 

Nuro's robotic vehicles can be engineered and built from the ground up more quickly and for less cost since they don't require the same safety systems which are mandatory on passenger vehicles such as seat belts, air bags, or windows and mirrors. 

The small self-driving vehicles are designed to be used by retailers, restaurants and grocery stores for on-demand deliveries. The Nuro vehicles, named the R1 and R2, are outfitted with lockable compartments to carry goods such as fresh groceries, pizza, meals, dry-cleaning, prescriptions, or similar items. Upon delivery, customers can use a smartphone app to unlock the secure compartments to access their orders.

The second generation R2 is bigger and can carry more cargo. Nuro says the R2 offers two-thirds more compartment space, which can also be temperature controlled to help keep food fresh in transit. Nuro updated the R2 to handle the rigors of commercial delivery with a bigger battery that can last all day without needing a charge.

Nuro recently announced partnerships with Kroger, Domino's, Walmart, CVS and other leading companies to deliver goods with its autonomous vehicles.

Nuro's R2 vehicle received the first federal exemption for an autonomous vehicle from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the company said.  

In April 2020, Nuro was granted a permit from California's Department of Motors Vehicles to operate its tiny vehicles on public roads. Nuro was granted the second permit issued in the state that allows it to operate its driverless vehicles without human supervision. The first permit was granted to Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet Inc. which spun out of Google's early self-driving car project.

With the $500 million in new funding, Nuro will continue to advance its autonomous technology,  hire new employees and expand its delivery service.

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