Self-driving truck startup Ike Robotics raises $52M
Ike Robotics Inc., a self-driving truck startup founded by former Apple Inc., Google LLC and Uber Technologies Inc. engineers, today said it has raised $52 million in venture capital funding.
The round was led by Bain Capital Ventures and included Redpoint Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Basis Set Ventures and Neo.
Named after former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the company isn’t developing its own self-driving truck technology but has instead licensed technology from autonomous delivery startup Nuro Inc. Using Nuro’s technology as its base, which so far has been focused on robotic delivery vehicles, Ike is adding a layer on top to use the technology for autonomous trucks.
Although anything involving autonomous vehicles would presumably have a goal of replacing drivers, Ike is pitching itself as complementary. “We make technology that helps people,” the company claims on its website. “Our products will improve truck driver livelihoods, create jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions and improve transportation.”
The pitch sounds very similar to Otto, the self-driving truck startup acquired by Uber in 2016 for $680 million. That’s no coincidence: Some of its founders were former Otto and then Uber employees.
The aim for Otto, and seemingly Ike, wasn’t simply to replace truck drivers but apply autonomous driving technology to make their tasks easier, such as with coast-to-coast long-haul trips where the technology can be applied for driving along an interstate.
“Our core mission to help improve the freight industry drives our engineering development and our product vision,” Ike claims. “We prioritize spending our time and energy on the things that are critical to achieving our mission.”
Semiautonomous vehicle technology isn’t new. Tesla Inc. uses the same technology in its Autopilot, allowing vehicles to traverse without human interaction, albeit with human supervision.
Trucks are more challenging than a Tesla vehicle, so Ike is adapting existing technology to far larger vehicles.
According to TechCrunch, that extra layer includes the ability to monitor and control a truck’s wire harnesses, alternator and steering column with computer vision and deep learning. That allows it to see and understand its environment and make proper decisions.
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