By Bilal Hafeez 13-08-2019
In: podcasts | Business & Technology

How Robots Will Feed Our On-Demand Culture (The Future of Everything by the WSJ, 14 mins)

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(You can listen to the podcast by clicking here)

Nuro is a start-up aiming to bring autonomous vehicles into home delivery, and it’s backed a $1bn investment from Softbank’s Vision Fund. In this short interview, the founder, Dave Ferguson, who is an ex-Google self-driving engineer, explains that the vehicles Nuro use only reach 25mph and are designed to be very cautious, at times rapidly hitting their breaks. They’re about half as wide and shorter than most cars and have no room inside for human passengers or drivers (robotics and human travel have so far been a logistical and regulatory challenge to bring together). But Ferguson hopes that unmanned transport safety will soon improve significantly, allowing autonomous vehicles to turn into living spaces where people are happy to spend their long commutes. Their aim – very far in the future – is to have only autonomous vehicles on the streets, which won’t need any traffic management and which would minimise accidents.

Why does this matter? The $940 million that Softbank injected into Nuro is just their latest major investment in autonomous vehicles – last year they invested $2.25bn in General Motor’s self-driving unit. And they aren’t alone in investing. Earlier this year, Aurora Innovation, a self-driving start-up, also received $0.5bn from investors including Amazon. Robotics are slowly but inevitably taking over the more manual daily tasks, and start-ups that can successfully ride this new wave are well rewarded. All this, of course, is heavily dependent on regulation and that so far remains an uncertainty.

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