Logistics Escapes the Warehouse to Conquer the Last Mile — Why Toyota Invested in Boxbot
June 04, 2018      
Jim Adler, founding managing director, Toyota AI Ventures

I’ve previously written about my belief that it will be years before we share the roads with fully-autonomous, Level 5 self-driving cars. But I’ve also noted that there are specific use cases and environments where autonomous vehicles could hit the roads now. Self-driving delivery is another example of just such a use case, and Boxbot is working to enable that.

Logistics automation within warehouses has made remarkable progress in the last decade, due to advances in robotics and automated interfaces that streamline interactions between human and supply chains.

Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures

Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures

An inflection point came in 2012, when Amazon bought Kiva, which put it on a path to automate its fulfillment centers. The same autonomous technologies (i.e., sensors, perception, prediction, planning) used to pack boxes in the warehouse are now being pressed into the service of delivering those packages that last mile to your door. This is the most complex and expensive leg of the supply chain.

Today, I’m excited to share that Toyota AI Ventures has invested in Boxbot, a promising startup based in Oakland, Calif., that is bringing self-driving vehicles to last-mile delivery to help reduce those costs.

Led by founders CEO Austin Oehlerking and CTO Mark Godwin, Boxbot’s team has a rare combination of logistics and robotics expertise, having worked at companies like Tesla, Uber, Amazon, and Northrop Grumman. We are delighted to welcome Boxbot to our portfolio company family.

Boxbot is our first investment in the autonomous delivery space, and while we can’t go into too many details yet as the company is still a little stealthy, we can tell you that we’re impressed with its business model and solution to a global problem that McKinsey & Company priced at more than $80 billion in 2016.

Winning this huge market will take a unique mix of autonomy tech, logistics expertise, and partnering savvy.

We think Austin and Mark are exactly the kind of eclectic founders to reinvent the last-mile logistics market.

Read more about Boxbot’s seed funding round, which was led by Artiman Ventures, and also includes Afore Capital, Pear Ventures, Ironfire Ventures, and The House Fund.

And don’t forget to check out its job opportunities. The company is hiring!

Editor’s Note: Jim Adler spoke at last year’s RoboBusiness conference.