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Boxbot moves toward self-driving vehicles for last mile

Autonomous vehicle startup secures an additional $7.5 million in seed funding.

   Oakland, Calif.-based autonomous vehicle startup Boxbot has secured an additional $7.5 million in seed funding, the company said in a statement.
   The latest funding round, led by Artiman Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures, a subsidiary of the Toyota Research Institute that focuses on investments in early-stage startups in artificial intelligence, data/cloud, autonomous mobility and robotics, brings the total investment in Boxbot to $9 million.
   Other seed round investors include Pear Ventures, Afore Capital, The House Fund and Ironfire Ventures, all of which participated in the company’s pre-seed round with the exception of Ironfire.
   Co-founded in late 2016 by former Tesla and Uber engineers, Boxbot is focused primarily on developing self-driving systems for last-mile logistics.
   Those final-mile pieces of the supply chain puzzle are “often the single most expensive part of the delivery process,” said Boxbot, adding that a report from McKinsey & Co. estimates autonomous vehicles will make 80 percent of last-mile deliveries by 2025.
   “Over the next few years, self-driving vehicles will transform the last mile, making it cheaper to make deliveries and easier to receive them,” said Brian Wilcove, a partner at Artiman Ventures. “Boxbot has a unique approach, and deep expertise across the disciplines that will drive that transformation.”
   The field of remote-operated and autonomous vehicles has become increasingly crowded over the last few years as automakers and tech companies alike race to be first in a market that still has some lingering questions when it comes to safety and regulation.
   Some firms, like Volvo, Daimler, Alphabet subsidiary Waymo, Uber and Tesla, have well-known — not to mention deep-pocketed — backers, while others like Boxbot and fellow startups Peloton, TuSimple and Embark have gone the route of venture capital funding.
   But it’s not a lack of investment, or even a lack of available technology, that’s keeping autonomous cargo trucks off the roads in the United States, it’s a lack of clear rules and regulations for operating the still-evolving technology.
   Federal legislation surrounding autonomous vehicles seemed to be gaining traction in Washington late last year, but the appetite of lawmakers to address the issue may have waned considerably following a rash of highly publicized incidents involving self-driving cars earlier this year.

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