Seegrid, a company that builds self-driving vehicles for material handling in industrial environments, has added an additional $ 27 million to its most recent equity financing. This ends the round at $ 52 million, bringing the company’s total to $ 150 million, with a valuation of “over $ 400 million.”
Seegrid, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was founded in 2003 and has developed two visionary vehicles (VGVs) that can move materials in warehouses and production facilities completely autonomously. Both vehicles are on the market – a pallet truck that can move 8,000 pounds of goods and a tug that can move 10,000 pounds.
Equipped with stereo cameras and smarts for machine learning, the VGVs are designed in such a way that they “see exactly like humans” and can thus navigate in dynamic environments without additional infrastructure installation.
Importantly, the vehicles can be retrained to follow new routes entirely in-house, with people driving or walking alongside them to teach them which route to follow.
Automation and jobs
The funding renewal comes due to the unprecedented demand for automated technologies due to the COVID-19 crisis. Jim Rock, CEO of Seegrid, said he expects the company to double its sales in 2020, which means it needs to accelerate product development and hires.
“This investment allows Seegrid to meet demand faster and accelerate new product launches previously planned for 2021 and 2022, as well as support significant growth and recruitment plans,” Rock told VentureBeat. “Seegrid now has more than 200 employees and plans to have at least 100 more across the company.”
AI and automation have helped many industries get back to work, but not without concerns about the longer-term impact of technology on jobs. We’re already seeing some new jobs, however, with Rock citing the robot fleet manager as one such role.
It is not clear whether increased automation leads to a net loss, gain or gain, but robots are becoming more visible in both work and social settings, and investors are investing large sums of money in the companies behind them.
While Menlo Park’s G2VP led the initial $ 25 million investment, Seegrid declined to disclose who had topped up the round, noting that the funding came from “leading technology and robotics investors.”