General Electric (GE) and Caterpillar have invested millions in Clearpath Robotics, a Canadian tech start-up that’s looking to develop a range of autonomous vehicles for factories.
The venture capital arms of both firms have made a significant investment in the company and were part of a $30 million Series B funding round that was led by iNovia Capital.
Clearpath will use the money as part of its continuing growth strategy. The funds will go towards the company’s range of robots and hiring new employees.
It’s designed a whole line-up of robots, called Otto, that are capable of transporting packages, large boxes and other items without the need for human intervention.
They’ve been equipped with LiDAR technology and other sensors so they can map out their surroundings and build a travel path, avoiding any obstacles or diversions.
But that’s not all they can do. These smart robotic vehicles can also make their way to a fuel station if they’re running low on gas. This, again, avoids human contact.
The vehicles are sold through a specialist arm of the company called Otto Motors. Launched in April, it is looking to bring modular SDVS (self-driving vehicles) to the market.
The company believes SDVs (or autonomous vehicles) have the potential to transform the way manufacturing facilities and factories are run. And that’s without as many humans as possible.
Speaking recently about the robots, Simon Drexler, director of industrial solutions at Otto Motors, said: “The OTTO self-driving vehicles offer increased intelligence and flexibility into material handling and it’s these types of advancing technologies that present exciting opportunities for the industrial market.”
“To integrate this type of technology into your building, users take Otto for a walk around that facility and it uses its perception sensors, which are its lasers, to build a map inside its mind – which is its computer.
“Once it has that reference map, it can freely navigate from any origin to any destination inside of the mapped parameters.”
“The really exciting thing about the Otto technology is that we are now able to automate the undefined tasks, the things that we currently cannot automate with traditional technology.”
An exciting future for autonomous vehicles
Matt Rendall, CEO of Clearpath, told TechCrunch that his company’s innovations are being built to make the manufacturing industry more efficient and sustainable.
“Boxes and pallets moving around the world in the global supply chain are the circulatory system for global commerce. We believe if we can move them more efficiently we can do profound things for the economy,” he said.
“We’ve all seen what Foxconn has been able to do with automation. The next phase for Clearpath will be about proving their value, in terms of cost savings, to clients in one of their factories in order to roll out to another five, ten or all of their factories.”