Postmates spin-off Serve Robotics raises $13M to grow its sidewalk delivery fleet

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In May, following the acquisition of Postmates by Uber, Postmates’ robotics division became known as an independent company called Serve Robotics. At the time, Serve said it would continue its vision of deploying sidewalk robotic fleets across the country, thousands of which had already served households in Los Angeles prior to the acquisition of Uber.

Following on from that ambition, Serve announced today that it has closed an extended $ 13 million round of funding with the participation of strategic investors Uber, Delivery Hero, the corporate venture arm of 7-Eleven and Wavemaker Labs of Wavemaker Partners. The new round expands Serve’s previous Seed funding and includes the participation of existing supporters Neo, Western Technology Investment and Scott Bannister.

CEO Ali Kashani says revenue will be directed to increasing the company’s employees and continuing to develop Serve’s technology platform. “This expansion of funding will allow us to increase our commercial operations by adding more robots, more partners and launching more markets in the coming year,” he told VentureBeat by email. “Within the next two to three years, we’d like to see our robots in every major city in the United States.”

Non-contact deliveries

The plague has re-strengthened the segment of companies developing delivery robots small enough to navigate crosswalks, sidewalks and corporate campuses. Robots not only minimize human-to-human contact, but can fulfill their role while the industry is dealing with Historical shortage of delivery drivers.

Early in the epidemic, KiwiBot’s autonomous delivery robots provided sanitary equipment, masks, antibacterial gels and hygiene products in the communities of Berkeley, California and Denver, Colorado. Starship, a competitor, recently launched a fleet of robots for delivery in Fairfax, Virginia following deployments in Washington, D.C.; Tampa, Arizona; And Mountain View and Irwin, California. Last July, Amazon expanded its Scout autonomous delivery robot trials to Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee. And this summer, Grubhub partnered with Yandex’s self-driving team to provide partners on campus in universities, including the state of Ohio, with the ability to deploy Yandex robots on the site for faster deliveries.

Other players in the field of growing delivery robots include FedEx, Refraction AI, Boxbot, Cartken, Tortoise and Marble (acquired by Caterpillar in June 2020). By 2030, Alliance Market Research Watchman That the market will stand at $ 30.05 billion, and grow at a complex annual growth rate of 24.5% over the next nine years.

But the 80-year-old Serve – which got its name from the autonomous sidewalk delivery booth developed and tested by Postmates – is backed by Uber. In November, a shuttle company announced it would partner with Serve to provide food to UberEats customers in Los Angeles starting in 2022.

“Serve is now focusing on food delivery and has recently announced a partnership with UberEats. In 2022, Serve will begin providing for UberEats and other national network partners, and will mobilize its next round of funding to increase,” Kashani added. “This partnership with Uber will allow Serve to expand its robotic supply to UberEats customers as well, while continuing to grow its areas of activity. In the future, Serve plans to expand its model with grocery, pharmacy, cannabis and parcel delivery.”

Tied to the sidewalk

The meter-high Serve robots feature colorful, LED-laden exterior parts that hide a pack of sensors including RGB cameras, sonar, flight time sensors, GPS and Lidar. The control panel, which sits on the side, contains a “Help” button and a video chat display as well as a touch screen panel.

Top opening hides a trunk that is opened using a phone app or access code. The Serve robot can carry up to 50 pounds for 25 miles on a single charge – enough to make more than a dozen deliveries a day, Kashani claims.

Proposed in a press release that the self-driving rovers completed tens of thousands of shipments across the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many legal questions about robots and others like them – only 20 states have passed laws allowing the use of sidewalk robots – but Kashani expects that they will eventually make domestic shipping more lucrative and sustainable.

He is not the only one. God McKinsey Institute Predictions that driverless guns like that of the Serve will account for 85% of shipments of the last mile by 2025.

“Every customer in our area of ​​operation may have his shipment by robot if there is one,” Kashani continued. “Our Los Angeles delivery fleet has been independent of our engineering process for some time and has completed non-contact shipments from more than 100 merchants to thousands of customers.”

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