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Google backs AV-maker Nuro in latest $600M funding round

Tiger Global Management leads series D round

The Nuro R2, pictured, became the first AV to test delivery on public streets last year (Photo: Nuro)

Autonomous vehicle maker Nuro on Tuesday announced a $600 million financing round led by Tiger Global Management to develop and deploy its robot delivery network nationwide. Notably, the series D included new participation from Alphabet property Google and grocery retailer Kroger.

In total, Nuro has now raised over $2 billion to reach a valuation of about $8.6 billion, an anonymous source familiar with the round told TechCrunch. The robo-delivery company’s previous funding round brought in $500 million from T. Rowe Price Associates, Fidelity Management and Research Co. LLC (NYSE: FIS) and Chipotle (NYSE: CMG), among others.

Nuro also revealed Tuesday that it will enter into a five-year partnership with Google Cloud. That collaboration will improve the machine learning capabilities of Nuro’s robots, store and organize data from the vehicles, and scale the company’s capacity to run self-driving simulations.

“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,” said 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.”

Nuro has been busy over the past calendar year. A month after securing series C funding last November, it acquired trucking technology startup Ike, founded by veterans of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and Uber’s (NYSE: UBER) Advanced Technologies Group. Just a couple months after that, Nuro became the first autonomous delivery company to test on public roads in the U.S.

Since then, Nuro has partnered with Domino’s (NYSE: DPZ) to deliver pizzas in Houston with its second-generation R2, the first AV to receive an exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The company then made its first inroads into parcel delivery through a collaboration with FedEx (NYSE: FDX). Prior to that partnership, Nuro had focused on deliveries of medical supplies with CVS (NYSE: CVS) and groceries with Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Kroger (NYSE: KR).

“Kroger launched its partnership with Nuro in 2018 to explore grocery delivery through autonomous vehicles,” said Yael Cosset, senior vice president and 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.”

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Nuro only plans on ramping things up from here. In August, it announced an investment of $40 million toward building its first U.S. manufacturing and testing facilities in southern Nevada. Expected to be finished in 2022, the manufacturing facility will comprise 125,000 square feet of space and will be able to produce tens of thousands of Nuro’s upcoming third-generation AV.

The testing facility, described as a “world-class closed-course test track,” will take up more than 74 acres of Las Vegas Motor Speedway to develop and validate Nuro’s robots before they hit public roads. Both facilities are expected to be fully operational in 2022.

With companies like Amazon shifting consumer expectations closer and closer to instant delivery, AVs figure to play a prominent role in the last mile going forward. According to research from Facts and Factors, the AV market is poised to grow at a compound annual rate of over 20% through 2026, when it will reach a projected value of $55 billion. And while there are currently no overarching federal regulations for AVs, members of Congress are pushing to implement them.

“The arrival of ubiquitous on-demand e-commerce is changing the way we access goods. Demand for local deliveries is exploding. Nuro is the bridge to an era of sustainable, low-cost, autonomous local delivery,” said Griffin Schroeder, partner at Tiger Global.

With the additional $600 million in funding from Tiger Global, Google, Kroger and others, Nuro plans on expanding its team and advancing its technology at its planned Nevada facilities to deploy delivery robots commercially at scale.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.