Serve Robotics Inc. today announced the deployment of its latest generation of delivery robots and claimed that it is the first autonomous vehicle company to complete commercial deliveries at Level 4 autonomy. The San Francisco-based company said that its robots are the result of nearly five years of work and are able to operate routinely and safely without human intervention.
“I'm proud that Serve Robotics has achieved Level 4 autonomy, which further enhances public safety by significantly reducing the potential for human error. This milestone begins to unlock the full potential of robotic delivery,” said Dr. Ali Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. “This technical and commercial milestone is an achievement for the entire AV [autonomous vehicle] industry and accelerates our mission to make delivery more accessible and sustainable.”
Founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Postmates, Serve said it “set out to build a robotic delivery experience that delights customers, improves reliability for merchants, and reduces vehicle emissions to zero.” The startup has designed, developed, and operated robots that serve people in public spaces, starting with food delivery.
Serve said its mobile robots have successfully completed tens of thousands of contactless deliveries in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Spun off as an independent company in February 2021, Serve is backed by Uber, 7-Eleven, and Delivery Hero’s corporate venture units and other investors. It raised $13 million in an expanded seed funding round in December.
Serve Robotics uses multiple safety measures
Serve Robotics said it recently completed the first-ever delivery to occur at SAE Level 4 autonomy, navigating fully autonomously in designated areas.
The company explained that its robots use multiple layers of redundant systems for critical navigation functions. This includes multiple sensor modalities, including active sensors such as lidar and ultrasonics, as well as passive sensors such as cameras.
The delivery robots can operate safely on busy city sidewalks without human intervention, it said. Serve noted that its achievement required the development of a wide range of capabilities, such as automatic emergency braking, vehicle collision avoidance, and fail-safe mechanical braking.
NVIDIA, Ouster help power autonomous deliveries
Serve Robotics credited key technology partners including NVIDIA Corp. and Ouster Inc. The NVIDIA Jetson platform, designed for robots and other autonomous machines, powers the AI computing necessary for Serve's robots to understand their complex environment in real time.
“Serve Robotics’ accomplishment represents a breakthrough for commercial deployment of AV technology for sidewalk delivery,” said Murali Gopalakrishna, head of product management for autonomous machines and general manager for robotics at NVIDIA. “We look forward to Serve continuing to leverage the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI and Isaac robotics platforms to further advance their technological lead.”
San Francisco-based Ouster said its lidar sensors provide small, lightweight, power-efficient sensing technology that enables the robots’ reliable self-driving capabilities.
“Serve Robotics has achieved a major breakthrough for the AV industry and for sidewalk delivery,” said Angus Pacala, CEO of Ouster. “Ouster is pleased to partner with Serve as they continue to scale and bring lidar-powered Level 4 autonomy to doorsteps across the U.S.”
Serve said its fleet of next-generation robots will power its expansion into additional locations as it rolls out delivery service for Uber Eats and other partners in 2022.