Autonomous vehicle startup Nuro winds down operations in Phoenix

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Nuro, an autonomous vehicle delivery startup valued at more than $8.6 billion, is closing its Phoenix facility as it shifts its commercial strategy from the desert metropolis to the San Francisco Bay Area and Houston.

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According to an internal email reviewed by TechCrunch, Nuro told employees that the Phoenix Depot warehouse will be closed by October 1st. It will continue to operate outside of its Tempe, Arizona facility and corporate employees will not be affected. However, several autonomous vehicle operators (AVOs) in Phoenix were fired as a result.

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“With Phoenix no longer on our commercial roadmap for the foreseeable future, we will pool our resources to focus on our primary deployment areas in the Bay Area and Houston. We will immediately suspend road operations in Phoenix and close the depot by October 1st,” an internal email reads.

A Nuro spokesperson confirmed the Phoenix layoffs, explaining that Nuro has shifted its focus in Arizona from on-road operations to remote operations. The business strategy “involves phasing out our Phoenix Depot and focusing on remote operations in Tempe, Arizona,” a spokesperson said in an email, adding that Nuro will continue to have a presence in Arizona.

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Nuro has been in Arizona for many years and began its presence in 2018 as part of a pilot project with Kroger Co., a grocery retailer that owns and operates Kroger, King Soopers, Fry’s and Pick n Save stores. The pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona initially used modified Toyota Prius sedans and passed over to his first generation bot, called the R1 vehicle. While Nuro’s partnership with Kroger expanded and continued in Houston, the Arizona pilot ended.

In February 2020, Nuro unveiled the R2, a second-generation bot designed and built in the US in collaboration with Roush Enterprises of Michigan, which is equipped with lidar, radar and cameras to give the “driver” a 360-degree view of their surroundings. .

Now he’s on his third generation robot just called Nuro. The Nuro (pictured below), unveiled in January 2022, will be produced in collaboration with BYD North America.

Image credits: Nuro

These vehicles are designed to transport food and other goods, not people. As Nuro moved from a Prius to a custom car, it has had to beef up its telecontrol system, which allows people to remotely control, communicate, and even give directions to bots if needed.

Of the affected employees in Phoenix, three have opted for severance pay, Nuro said two are helping close Nuro’s depot in Phoenix, and the rest will join the team in Tempe.

The company also laid off four employees in Houston and three at its Mountain View, California facility.

“Unfortunately, as part of our current strategy to be more focused on our operations, we have made the difficult decision to lay off four of our Houston (non-AVO) employees and offer them all severance pay. All affected employees have been informed personally and individually at work,” a Nuro spokesperson told TechCrunch.

There were no other cuts in other companies. As of January 2022, the company employed over 1,200 people.

Nuro’s focus is on Houston and the Bay Area, where the company is headquartered, including partnerships with several corporations including Walmart and CVS.

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