UPDATED 15:55 EDT / AUGUST 10 2023


Delivery robot startup Serve Robotics to go public

Serve Robotics Inc., a startup that builds sidewalk robots for last-mile delivery tasks, is going public. 

San Francisco-based Serve Robotics announced the move this morning. In conjunction, the startup disclosed that it has closed a $30 million investment led by Nvidia Corp. and Uber Technologies Inc., from which it spun off in 2020. The startup’s total outside funding now stands at $56 million.

Serve Robotics is going public after completing a reverse merger with an investment vehicle called Patricia Acquisition Corp. earlier this month. Following the deal’s closure, Uber retained a 16.2% stake in the startup. Nvidia had 11% of the startup’s outstanding shares.

Serve Robotics has developed a wheeled robot optimized for last-mile delivery, the task of ferrying merchandise from a logistics hub or retail location to customers. The startup says its robots can cover up to 25 miles per charge. They travel on sidewalks alongside pedestrians.

Early last year, the company disclosed that its robots had achieved Level 4 autonomy. That means they can operate without any human input in most situations. If necessary, an engineer can remotely log into a robot and drive it manually.

The robots run their autonomous driving algorithms on chips from Nvidia’s Jetson system on module series. A system on module is a circuit board that includes several different processors. Nvidia’s Jetson chips each include a central processing unit, a graphics card and an accelerator designed to speed up computer vision algorithms.

Serve Robotics says its robots collect the data they use to make driving decisions using a custom array of onboard sensors. The array includes cameras, lidar units and ultrasonic sensors. 

The latter two technologies operate on the same basic principle. Lidar and ultrasonic sensors generate pulses of laser light and sound waves, respectively, many times per minute. They then analyze the signals that are reflected from the environment to map out their surroundings.

Serve Robotics’ robots are currently used primarily for making restaurant deliveries. Last year, the company teamed up with Uber to test an autonomous restaurant delivery program in Los Angeles. The company’s technology has also been piloted by other companies including Pizza Hut Inc.’s Canadian subsidiary.

Today’s news comes a few months after the startup announced a significant expansion of its partnership with Uber. As part of the collaboration, the ride-hailing giant will deploy up to 2,000 of the startup’s robots. They will become available to users through the UberEats food delivery service.

“Serve’s delivery volume has grown over 30% month-over-month on average for the past 18 months,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ali Kashani. “Becoming a public company provides broader access to capital, supporting our continued growth as we ramp up our partnership with the world’s largest food delivery platform and expand other enterprise partnerships.”

Serve will use the $30 million it raised ahead of its stock market listing to build robots for Uber. Additionally, the startup plans to accelerate product development and market expansion initiatives.

Image: Serve Robotics

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