Would you want your groceries to be delivered by a robot?

Just as the space for autonomous driving cars is getting crowded, so is the segment called last mile delivery services. Automakers like Ford and Toyota are pushing for a presence in this segment. The latter even unveiled the E-Palette Concept at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show to showcase its plans. Startup companies are also looking to gain a foothold, including Silicon Valley-based Nuro, a tech startup that has plans to launch its own self-driving delivery vehicle.

Nuro is the brainchild of two former Google engineers, Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. The two engineers worked on Google’s self-driving car project, so they’re well entrenched in the segment and its business potential. Together, Ferguson and Zhu developed a small, self-driving minivan concept that can deliver goods and to your front door. Physically, the vehicle is small enough that it doesn’t take up much space on local roads, but it’s also big enough to have four compartments that can each hold up to 10 shopping bags. The vehicle can also be configured by users to accommodate a number of custom inserts.

While there are no specific plans on when the car will hit the road, Nuro envisions it as a future alternative to standard delivery services that often include the presence of humans. The city car itself reportedly took 18 months to develop, and it still has a long way to go before it can be functional enough to achieve its purpose in life. Speaking with Reuters, Ferguson said that Nuro is “currently in talks with big and small retailers” that can help increase its profile in this burgeoning segment. Once those retail partnerships are delivered, expect the next step to be getting these vehicles on the road.

There’s no telling when that’s going to be, but given that the company was just on the receiving end of a $92 million investment from private equity firm Banyan Capital and venture firm Greylock Partners, Nuro has the finances to make it work.


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