What is Serve Robotics?

Serve Robotics is an autonomous sidewalk delivery company that was founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Postmates. 

Understanding Serve Robotics

Serve Robotics can trace its origins back to a robotics division of delivery company Postmates called Postmates X. The division came under Uber ownership when it acquired Postmates for $2.65 billion in December 2020 and was spun out as the independent company Serve Robotics three months later.

Serve Robotics is named after the eponymous delivery bot Serve, an affordable, sustainable, convenient, and autonomous delivery system that is zero-emission and the size of an average cooler. 

Post becoming an independent company, Serve Robotics completed a seed funding round led by VC firm Neo. Others involved in the round include Uber, Long Journey Ventures, Western Technology Investment, PayPal mafia member Scott Banister, and Postmates co-founders Sean Plaice and Bastian Lehman.

The company then completed a Series A round worth $13 million in December 2021. Taking part this time were Uber, 7-Evelen’s corporate venture arm 7-Ventures, Delivery Hero-backed DX Ventures, and Wavemaker Labs.

How do Serve robots work?

Serve robots navigate autonomously in designated areas of Los Angeles such as Hollywood and West Hollywood. The robot’s cargo container is secured such that only a customer with the passcode can access its contents, and each delivery is supervised remotely by a pilot.

So far, customers who use the Uber Eats app within Serve’s delivery area may have their food delivered by a robot if one is available. Those selected for robotic delivery will be able to track Serve’s location as it approaches.

Serve Robotics announced in January 2022 that it had become the first company to complete commercial deliveries at Level 4 autonomy. In other words, its robots were able to operate on a routine basis without human intervention and ensured safe operation using their onboard capabilities only.

Assisting with navigation on busy city streets are multiple sensor modalities. These include active sensors such as ultrasonics and lidar as well as more passive camera sensors. Each robot also incorporates automatic emergency braking and vehicle collision avoidance systems.

Key tech partners include NVIDIA, which provided its robot and autonomous machine platform Jetson, and Ouster, an American manufacturer of small and power-efficient lidar sensors.

Potential market size

Allied Market Research notes that the global robot delivery market is expected to be worth $30.05 billion by 2030 with a CAGR of 24.5%. 

Growth has been facilitated by increased internet uptake, demand for contactless delivery, expansion of the eCommerce industry, and advances in AI and other technology. These factors are likely to persist and contribute to growth over the forecast period.

While Serve Robotics currently delivers food to consumers, there is also scope that the company’s robots could be used to deliver food in hotels, restaurants, and hospitals. Other noteworthy potential applications include mail delivery and last-mile delivery of various non-food retail items.

Key takeaways:

  • Serve Robotics is an autonomous sidewalk delivery company that was founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Postmates. When Uber acquired Postmates, it spun out the division into an independent company.
  • Serve Robotics is named after the eponymous delivery bot Serve, an affordable, sustainable, convenient, and autonomous delivery system that is also zero-emission and the size of a small cooler. 
  • Customers who use the Uber Eats app within Serve’s delivery area may have their food delivered by a robot if one is available. Those selected for such a delivery will be able to track the robot’s location as it approaches and must enter a passcode from an app to access the secure cargo container.

Key Highlights

  • Introduction to Serve Robotics:
    • Serve Robotics is an autonomous sidewalk delivery company founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Postmates, a delivery company.
    • It spun out as an independent company from the robotics division of Postmates, known as Postmates X, after Uber’s acquisition of Postmates.
  • Serve Robotics and Serve Bot:
    • Serve Robotics is named after its delivery bot, Serve, which is an autonomous, affordable, sustainable, and convenient delivery system.
    • Serve is zero-emission and about the size of an average cooler.
  • Funding Rounds and Investors:
    • After becoming an independent company, Serve Robotics completed a seed funding round led by Neo, a VC firm. Other investors included Uber, Long Journey Ventures, PayPal mafia member Scott Banister, and Postmates co-founders Sean Plaice and Bastian Lehman.
    • The company also completed a Series A funding round worth $13 million in December 2021, with participation from Uber, 7-Eleven’s corporate venture arm, Delivery Hero-backed DX Ventures, and Wavemaker Labs.
  • Autonomous Delivery Process:
    • Serve robots autonomously navigate in designated areas of Los Angeles.
    • The cargo container on the robot is secured, and customers with a passcode can access its contents.
    • Each delivery is remotely supervised by a pilot.
    • Users within the delivery area can have food delivered by the Serve robot through the Uber Eats app, and they can track the robot’s location as it approaches.
  • Level 4 Autonomy and Technology:
    • Serve Robotics achieved commercial deliveries at Level 4 autonomy, meaning the robots operate routinely without human intervention.
    • The robots use a combination of active sensors like ultrasonics and lidar, as well as passive camera sensors, for navigation on city streets.
    • Key tech partners include NVIDIA and Ouster, providing robot platforms and lidar sensors.
  • Market Potential and Growth:
    • The global robot delivery market is expected to be worth $30.05 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 24.5%.
    • Factors driving growth include increased internet usage, demand for contactless delivery, eCommerce expansion, and advancements in AI and technology.
    • Serve Robotics has potential applications beyond food delivery, including hotels, restaurants, hospitals, mail delivery, and last-mile delivery of non-food retail items.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Serve Robotics specializes in autonomous sidewalk delivery.
    • Serve bots offer a sustainable and efficient way of making deliveries.
    • Serve’s robots operate autonomously at Level 4 and incorporate advanced sensor technologies.
    • The company serves as an example of the growing market for autonomous robot delivery services.

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