Quick Introduction to Nuro

Founded in 2016, Nuro @nurobots is a new startup on autonomous transportation with a mission in “accelerating the benefits of robotics for everyday life”.

People

Nuro was founded by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. Both of them have devoted their careers to robotics and machine learning, most recently as Principal Engineers at Google’s self-driving car project (now Waymo).

During our visit, we will be meeting with Riley Soward, the Product Operations Manager at Nuro. Riley @RileySoward graduated from Boston College in 2018 with a major in Computer Science. While at BC, he founded his own company Campus Insights, a UX research firm that was later acquired by Harvard Student Agencies.

What differs Nuro from others

So far, use cases for self-driving technology have mostly focused on taxi services and long-distance trucking, and Nuro is looking at deliveries, specifically the kind that are low-speed, and local: groceries, laundry, or your take-out order. They are designing a new type of vehicle in solving the last-mile problem.

Last summer, Nuro announced a deal with grocery mega-chain Kroger (which owns Fry’s Food)

Funding

Nuro’s series A, in January 2018, funding round of $92 million was lead by Chinese venture firm Banyan Capital and Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners. 

On February 11, 2019, SoftBank Vision Fund, the world’s largest technology fund, announced its $940 million (Yes, nearly 1 billion USD!) investment in Nuro. SoftBank is a a Japanese multinational holding conglomerate that owns stake in Sprint (85%), Alibaba (29.5%), Yahoo Japan (48.17%), Uber (15%), Didi (ca.20%), WeWork (22%), and six hundred other firms across industries.

Competitors

Nuro competes with existing AI companies that focuses on autonomous driving solutions, including Waymo, Zoox, Argo AI, and Phantom AI. One company, Aurora, has already partnered with Volkswagon in commercializing an urban sedan with a very similar look.

At this point, Nuro is the only self-driving vehicle company focusing on delivery services; however, once the AI technology is mature and the market is ready, it will be interesting to see if these competitors will enter delivery services just like how Uber introduced UberEats. (Also a question for us to ask!)

3 thoughts on “Quick Introduction to Nuro

  1. Very excited to visit Nuro! I had experienced delivery service in both U.S. and China. Besides the speed of delivery, another big difference is the cost of delivery. In China, the majority of the delivery services are free(as a complimentary service for the products), and the other half are very inexpensive(only about $2 or less). It’s interesting to see how robotic delivery service will affect the entire delivery business? Will it decrease the delivery fees in the future?

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  2. Thanks for the timely introduction on Nuro. Really excited to meet with a company that focuses on this new technology and gain some insights into the industry. I am really interested into hearing about why they are only/or mostly focusing on delivery and what the new funding mean for the company’s development.

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  3. This is so clutch as I write my questions! I wonder where they are going to operate because these vehicles are slower than an average car, so clearly no highways. I would guess that these would operate more in the suburbs where there’s less traffic and probably more useful for people living in the suburbs. Or if Nuro operates in Chestnut Hill, that would be so convenient for students like me.

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