Nuro gets a head start from Arm as it launches its third-generation delivery robot

Delivery robot company Nuro is reaching out to chip designer Arm for help developing its third-generation vehicle, the companies announced today. The partnership is expected to expand the capabilities and reach of Nuro’s electric-powered robots and accelerate the production and commercialization of the company’s delivery service.

The Nuro Driver, the company’s brand name for the hardware and software required to power one of its autonomous vans, will use Arm’s Automotive Enhanced technology. That’s the chip designer’s brand name for the portfolio of intellectual property “dedicated to the security and specialized computing needs of the automotive market,” Arm says.

News of the partnership comes at a dangerous time for autonomous vehicle developers. Companies are facing new questions about safety after several incidents in which people were injured by self-driving vehicles. Investments have also declined as timelines extend further into the future. Last spring, Nuro said it would lay off 30 percent of its employees to cut costs.

The collaboration is expected to expand the capabilities and reach of Nuro’s electrically powered robots

Nevertheless, the company is making progress with its third-generation R3 vehicle, which should have twice as much cargo space as the second-generation R2 robot. It will also feature modular inserts and new temperature-controlled compartments to keep food hot or cold depending on need.

Nuro has been working with Arm for years, but today announced its plans to “deepen” that relationship by relying on some of the company’s core technology as the foundation for its new vehicle, according to Andrew Clare, Nuro’s chief technology officer.

By working with Arm, Nuro also hopes to improve the R3 robot’s efficiency and range by up to 20 percent without changing the size of the vehicle’s battery, Clare said. Arm’s technology runs on very low power consumption, freeing up more electrons for Nuro’s AI-powered ‘brain’, which makes real-time decisions about the vehicle’s operation and safety on the road.

“We’re creating technology with the lowest energy performance,” said Dipti Vachani, senior VP and general manager of Arm’s automotive business, in an interview, “so that Nuro can then take advantage of all that AI software.”

Nuro was founded in 2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, two veterans of Google’s self-driving car project that would later become Waymo. It is one of the few companies currently operating fully self-driving vehicles – that is, vehicles without safety drivers behind the wheel – on public roads.

Nuro’s current fleet, which operates in California and Texas, has traveled more than 1 million kilometers autonomously. While the software stack will run on Arm’s technology, Nuro’s powertrain – electric motors and batteries – is being developed by China’s BYD. Nuro is also building a factory in Nevada, where it will produce its next generation of vehicles.

“We create the technology with the lowest energy performance.”

But the company was also forced to pause its commercial expansion last year and delay production of its R3 vehicle as it faced cost issues. Nuro’s co-founders said they were focusing on a “leaner model for AV development” that would give the company enough money for three and a half years of operation.

Since then, Nuro says it is conducting small-scale commercial pilots with a number of its partners and making plans to expand our delivery service in the coming years. “The implementation of Nuro R3 on public roads later this year is an important step towards commercial scale,” said Nuro spokesperson Sarah Eno Henderson.

Clare said Nuro is already starting to think beyond delivery to include applications such as passenger cars. But that supply remains the core focus right now – and that’s why the Arm deal is so important.

“We are developing the next-generation Nuro driver, our next-generation sense and compute stack, which will once again deliver this increase in energy efficiency and lower costs,” said Clare. “And that will allow us to scale this product up to mass production.”

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