The world asked for self-driving cars… and it got self-driving bulldozers

Self-driving construction equipment startup Built Robotics raised $33m to expand -- one of several self-driving startups that’s NOT focused on cars.

September 20, 2019

Everyone and their Aunt Josephine seems to be talking about self-driving cars… but despite receiving more than $80B in investment (so far), the self-driving car industry has yet to put the autonomous pedal to the metal.

But while self-driving cars continue to idle, other types of vehicles — ranging from cargo ships to tractors — are pulling into the fast lane.

Now, self-driving bulldozers are joining the family

Yesterday, a startup called Built Robotics raised $33m to expand its self-driving construction equipment.

The company does not build its own vehicles. Instead, it creates conversion boxes — lidar, GPS systems, and other gizmos — that give normal bulldozers an autopilot mode.

Like other autonomous vehicles, Built’s ’dozers are equipped with a number of sensors that pull the plug if the machines lose their balance or something gets in their way.

In many cases, specificity is the key to successful autonomy

General-use self-driving cars are a cool idea, but they are really hard to build. Instead, it’s smarter to make self-driving vehicles that accomplish specific, well-defined tasks — like scooping dirt.

And the backhoeing of the autonomous vehicle market doesn’t stop there: Other startups also developing highly specific self-driving machines: Sea Machines has raised more than $12m to build self-driving ships; Bear Flag Robotics has raised $3.5m to build self-driving tractors; and Skydio has raised $70m to build autonomous drones.

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