Nuro Acquires Ike, Gets Approval for Autonomous Deliveries in California

A Nuro delivery vehicle completes training routes in Texas in November 2019.
A Nuro delivery vehicle completes training routes in Texas in November 2019. (Annie Mulligan for the Washington Post/Getty Images)

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Robotics company Nuro announced Dec. 23 that it has acquired Ike Robotics Inc., which builds automated trucking technology.

Founded in 2016, Nuro specializes in deploying autonomous vehicles for last-mile delivery services. Ike was founded in 2018 by CEO Alden Woodrow and a group of engineers and designers from Google, Apple Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.

“We look forward to all we’ll be able to accomplish together, knowing that our horizon of possible applications has been expanded with the addition of the Ike team and their expertise,” Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a blog post. “We are thrilled to have them join us in our collective mission.”


Truck outfitted with Ike's branding. (Ike)

Ike specializes in technology for Class 8 trucks that travel on the interstate highway system. The scope of Ike’s operations includes interstate highways in the San Francisco Bay Area, central and Southern California, and Arizona. The company’s name is a reference to President Dwight Eisenhower, who helped create the Interstate Highway System when he signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.

One of Ike’s concepts is a “handoff” system in which loads are exchanged between a human driver who handles navigating into and out of facilities and an automated truck that carries the freight during highway travel.

Nuro’s primary focus is smaller vehicles that can make local deliveries. Nuro produces the R2 vehicle, which is specifically designed to transport goods and has been piloted for a grocery delivery program in Scottsdale, Ariz. On Dec. 23, Nuro announced the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued the company a permit to deploy autonomous vehicles on public streets. According to Nuro, the permit will allow the company to operate its vehicles commercially on California roads in two counties near its headquarters in the Bay Area.

In a blog post that also was published Dec. 23, Ike indicated it has started to integrate teams and technology with Nuro. Additionally, the post notes the acquisition will provide an opportunity to integrate technology Ike has developed, such as its virtual simulation tools.

“After years of hard work to fulfill the promise of automated vehicles, we expect 2021 to be an important moment for Nuro and for the world,” Ike stated in its post. “We are thrilled to start this next chapter of Ike’s journey and help deliver on a shared mission together.”

The business relationship between Ike and Nuro dates to Ike’s beginning. In the fall of 2018, the companies struck a deal in which Nuro gave Ike a copy of its autonomy and infrastructure software in exchange for an equity stake in Ike.

Ferguson mentioned in his post that Nuro’s relationship with Ike also includes a personal element. He and Ike Chief Technology Officer Jur van den Berg have known each other for more than 15 years, since they were Ph.D. students working on research papers together.

RELATED: Ike Reaches Autonomous Tech Deal With Ryder, DHL, NFI

“Having Ike join us in accelerating our progress is a truly special moment that feels a bit like a homecoming,” Ferguson said. “When Ike first started, they did so inside our office. We shared a common space and a common goal, with lots of excitement and too few conference rooms.”

The acquisition was announced just more than two months after Ike reached agreements with transportation companies to equip approximately 1,000 trucks with its technology. Ryder System Inc., DHL Supply Chain, NFI Industries and several smaller companies announced Sept. 1 that they are working with Ike to install its automated system in their trucks through an annual software subscription model.

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