There were highs and lows across the robotics industry landscape as October started the fourth quarter of 2018, with big deals in the autonomous vehicle space, and the demise of a collaborative robotics pioneer. In between these ups and downs we saw continued investment in unmanned systems and artificial intelligence-related software platforms.
Today, we’re highlighting more than 20 recent robotics transactions. If you’ve missed some other transactions from last month or earlier this year, you can track them in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type.
If you’re an RBR Insider, don’t forget to check out the Q2 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investment trends for the past three months. It’s free for subscribers to Robotics Business Review.
Taking a look back at Q3 2018
Crunchbase News reported that worldwide deal and dollar volume totals have each surpassed Q2 levels, making “Q3 2018 the most active quarter for worldwide startup investment on record.” This year has also passed 2017’s venture capital dollar volume record, and there’s one more quarter to go, the site reported.
Self-driving cars get huge boost
There was another billion-dollar deal in the autonomous vehicle space this week. GM’s Cruise division announced they would team up with Honda to develop a purpose-built autonomous vehicle for Cruise that could serve many use cases, and manufactured at high volume for global deployment. Honda will invest approximately $2 billion over the next 12 years, with an additional $750 million equity investment in Cruise.
The additional investment brings more money to the Cruise effort, putting Google/Alphabet’s Waymo division on notice. The deal now gives Cruise a $14.6 billion valuation, according to reports. In June, the GM division received a $2.25 billion cash investment from SoftBank.
While Cruise and Waymo continue their self-driving car development and testing, others in the space are working on better sensors for autonomous cars.
Aeva this week announced raising $45 million to help expand its compact lidar sensor system. The company’s integrated box can see and track objects up to 200 meters ahead of the vehicle while traveling at highway speeds, a Forbes article noted.
In another announcement, SoftBank and Toyota are teaming up on a new self-driving and ride-hailing service. A new joint venture, Monet Technologies Corp., will initially introduce ride-hailing services for Japanese customers, followed by a rollout of autonomous vehicles in 2020, the two companies announced on Thursday in Tokyo.
Netradyne recently announced raising $21 million in new Series B funding. Focusing on driver safety, the company’s Driveri platform is a vision-based driver recognition and fleet safety “that captures and analyzes every minute of every driving experience, providing commercial fleet managers with insights into positive driving and identifying opportunities for individual coaching.”
While this doesn’t necessarily translate to autonomous vehicles, a system like this could help human drivers get better as they deal with more autonomous vehicles hitting the road.
Will investors rethink cobot investments?
While the autonomous vehicle space is blooming, the industry saw another high-profile company shut its doors. This week, Rethink Robotics announced it was shutting down operations, having failed to reach an acquisition deal.
The news is a grim reminder for other startups in the robotics space that not every outcome is going to be good – while Rethink made a big impact in the world of cobots, others in the space also developed their own collaborative robots, creating competition and grabbing market share. Universal Robots, the acknowledged leader in this space, last month announced the sale of its 25,000th robot.
It’s unclear whether this will cool the market for venture capital investments in the cobot space, but as RoboBusiness 2018 speaker Julian Counihan noted earlier this year, investors are still looking for “the next big thing” in the robotics space.
U.S. military investments in unmanned aircraft, drones
Recent weeks have continued to show investments in unmanned aircraft and aerial drones by branches of the U.S. military. Here’s a quick roundup of recent moves:
- AeroVironment earned $13 million for its Raven unmanned aircraft systems.
- Lockheed Martin won a $12.5 million contract for its counter-drone platform.
- General Atomics was awarded a $441.6 million contract for technical services for the U.S. Army’s Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft systems.
- iRobot Defense Holdings earned a $10.1 million contract for the Man Transportable Robotic System MK1.
- Rockwell Collins was awarded a $15 million contract to provide software for the RQ-7B Shadow.
- Raytheon earned a $10.7 million contract for software for the MQ-8 Fire Scout.
Acquisitions continue across the robotics landscape
A bunch of notable mergers and acquisitions have appeared on the robotics landscape in recent weeks, including:
- Honeywell acquired German warehouse automation firm Transnorm, in a $493 million deal.
- Siemens PLM Software acquired Lightwork Design for its VR rendering platform, which it intends to integrate into its product lifecycle management platform.
- Interos Solutions announced its intention to acquire Trensant for its AI Platform in the supply chain market.
Weekly artificial intelligence transactions
Speaking of AI platforms, it wouldn’t be our weekly investments column if there weren’t any AI-related transactions, and this week is no different:
- MoQuality earned $2.5 million in seed round funding for its AI-based mobile app development platform.
- Daisy Intelligence won $5 million in funding for its infrastructure intelligence platform at the Elevate conference. The company’s platform helps retailers predict which products to promote, plan space, and forecast inventory. It’s expected to be used heavily in the grocery space.
Robot grocery store expected soon
Speaking of grocery stores, Takeoff Technologies recently announced raising $24 million in funding, and launched a “robotic grocery store.” The company has teamed up with one of the largest Hispanic grocer in the U.S., Sedano’s Supermarkets to launch sometime this month.
According to the company, “customer orders will be placed via an online app and carried out by Takeoff’s automated Micro-Fulfillment Center, with the support of Sedano’s employees. AI-enabled robots assemble full supermarket orders of up to 60 items in just a few minutes – a fraction of the speed and cost of current manual picking options.”
Wearable tech for workers gets a boost
In the manufacturing space, two companies that are helping workers with their health and safety earned interest from investors. Wistron Corporation announced an undisclosed investment in suitX, a California-based robotics company that is developing medical and industrial exoskeletons. The Series B funding will be used to expand global sales and marketing of suitX, as well as additional product development.
Detroit-based Guardhat announced a $20 million Series A funding investment to help further develop its wearables, infrastructure and software platforms. The company’s system can proactively monitor a user’s location, health, and work environment, with software that collects and analyzes on-the-job data to then enhance industrial worker safety and productivity.
Wrapping up the rest
With October here, the sunsets are arriving earlier, so we need to wrap this up before it gets too dark. Here are some other recent transactions:
- Softomotive raised $25 million to further development of its robotic process automation system.
- China’s Rulebit Technology earned a Series A investment from Ningbo Xinmei Asset Management Co. for further development of its industrial robots.
- China’s Junlin Technology received angel round funding from Quan Funds to further develop its electro-acoustic technology.
That’s it for the week, see you next week, where we will have additional funding news to share!