Starsky Robotics announced that it has raised $16.5 million in funding from Shasta Ventures. The startup also announced that it has successfully driven its self-driving cargo truck for seven miles without a driver.
“No safety driver behind the wheel, no engineer hiding on the bunk. We are the first company to make driverless trucks a reality,” said Starsky Robotics CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, in a blog post.
Starsky Robotics is one of a number of companies trying to rethink truck driving, as it’s tough staying alert on the long road and being away from family for weeks at a time.
Some companies have proposed trucks and software that assist human drivers. But Seltz-Axmacher said, “You only solve [this problem] by getting the driver out of the truck. Any autonomous truck that still needs a physical driver doesn’t go far enough to solve the problem.”
He said that previous investors Y Combinator, Trucks.vc, 50 Years, 9Point Ventures, and others also invested in the round.
“The trucking industry can’t fill all the jobs it has today,” says Rob Coneybeer, managing director of Shasta Ventures, in a statement. “The delivery of goods isn’t going anywhere, but the labor shortage in the industry looms large, threatening its long-term growth. That’s were Starsky fits in. The company is not just amplifying the productivity of experienced drivers and helping the industry continue to grow, but it is also transforming logistics as we know it.”
Almost a year ago, Starsky Robotics started regularly using self-driving trucks to haul commercial freight. The company made the system work in truck yards and major freight lanes, hauling everything from 5,000 pounds of milk crates to 40,000 pounds of tile.
In September, Starsky Robotics completed the longest end-to-end autonomous trip on record. After Hurricane Irma hit southwestern Florida, the company used one of its trucks to aid recovery efforts, hauling water 68 miles from one end of the state to the other without human intervention.
Starsky Robotics was founded in 2015 and has raised $21 million, to date. It has 21 employees.
“Rather than spending weekends at distant truck stops, we want drivers to spend them watching their daughters’ soccer games,” Seltz-Axmacher said.
Rivals include Embark and Varden Labs. Uber acquired self-driving trucking startup Otto for $680 million 2016.