In the final days of the fourth quarter, Maryland autonomous vehicle company Robotic Research landed a huge investment round backed by Softbank.
Marking one of the largest deals of the year, the 20-year-old robotics company landed a $228 million Series A round for its commercial arm. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Englightenment Capital led the round, with participation from Crescent Cove Advisors, Henry Crown and Luminar. The Clarksburg, Maryland-based company primarily builds self-driving vehicles for the commercial and agricultural sectors, specifically those that will continue to operate off-road.
For Robotic Research, this means scaling up all its operations, Don Lefeve, head of corporate affairs, told Technical.ly. It will specifically put the funding towards expanding and industrializing its commercial development.
“We saw the investment to really expand, industrialize and deliver,” Lefeve said. “It’s really to expand Robotic Research to meet our customer needs and expand our workforce to meet those needs and to industrialize our technology, which means scaling and bringing it to the commercial market at mass scale.”
The investment and growth comes after a period of strength for the company, despite things like supply chain shortages that have slowed many manufacturing efforts worldwide. Lefeve said that the company has expanded to 200 employees, adding about 60 in the past year, and plans to continue its growth with the new funding. Lefeve said Robotic Research will have all manner of openings in 2022, including engineering, sales, marketing and deployment positions.
The strong growth in 2021, Lefeve said, was largely due to customer demand, signaling a strong push for the industry as a whole. While he noted that autonomous vehicles is still a young industry, it’s one that he thinks has a strong — and not-so-far-off — future. He expects the industry to continue its momentum in 2022 and 2023, with mass commercial adoption in 2024 and 2025.
“We’re still in our infancy, but companies like ours are definitely paving the way and are showing that autonomy can help save companies money, it’s an investment,” Lefeve said. “And, obviously, the safety impacts of it are just tremendous.”
Over the past few years, Robotic Research has found strong success in its Maryland home. Last year, it began testing autonomous shuttles in Clarksburg and in 2019, it won a $16.5 million task order to supply tracking tech to the army.