A San Francisco-based robotics startup called Marble has landed $4 million in venture capital funding to advance its design of an autonomous vehicle that cruises urban neighborhoods providing last-mile delivery service, the company said Wednesday.
Marble also announced a partnership with the online meal ordering service Yelp Eat24, launching its fleet of ground delivery robots in San Francisco's Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods. Customers who place orders from restaurants through the Yelp Eat24 app can now opt in to have a robot deliver their food, and shortly afterword retrieve their meal from a boxy, autonomous vehicle about the dimensions of a washing machine.
Marble now plans to continue development of this robot fleet and expand delivery services throughout San Francisco and beyond, fueled by funding from the venture capital round that was led by Eclipse Ventures LLC and also includes Maven Ventures, Amplify Partners, and Lemnos Labs.
The approach is similar to an initiative from British robotics startup Starship Technologies, which in January reported it had received a $17.2 million venture capital injection to expand the U.S. trials of its self-driving parcel-delivery robots. Starship robots are now cruising sidewalks to deliver meals in pilot projects with DoorDash, for service in Redwood City, Calif., and Postmates Inc., for service in Washington, D.C.
Marble robots use a suite of tools to share busy sidewalks with people, navigating with lidar, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors. The bots then map city streets as they work, and analyze their paths to optimize transportation routes and delivery time, the company says. Founded in 2015 by three students from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, the company uses technology developed there for the U.S. Department of Defense's DARPA Grand and Urban challenges as well as the Google Lunar XPrize and NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge.
"At Marble, our vision is to create helpful robots that improve urban neighborhood living for everyone," Marble CEO and co-founder Matt Delaney said in a release. "We're creating a more efficient, reliable, and affordable way for people to receive what they need and want from their cities while reducing urban congestion and carbon footprint. Our system bolsters local commerce and unlocks the full potential of the on-demand economy, allowing it to be something that everyone can benefit from."