Toro announced this week that it had acquired Left Hand Robotics. This robotics company designs and manufactures autonomous (or self-driving), landscaping equipment. Although Toro isn’t new to self-driving equipment, it launched the flawed, innovative “iMow” in 2000. This acquisition shows that the manufacturer is beginning to focus on a more robotic future.
According to Toro’s official statement, “The acquisition supports The Toro Company’s strategy of leadership next-generation technologies including alternative power, smart connected and autonomous products.”
Left Hand currently makes one autonomous landscaping machine called the RT-1000. The RT-1000 Tractor can be equipped with attachments to either clear snow or mow grass. It follows a pre-determined route that is laid out by the operator. The all-wheel hydraulic drive system allows it to run even in adverse weather conditions.
Toro has yet to provide any details about their plans for the latest acquisition. However, it is clear that Left Hand will remain in Colorado and will not be moving. Many landscaping companies will be closely watching Toro’s decision to continue using Left Hand to make commercial-grade autonomous landscaping equipment, or to sell the technology to consumers.
Self-Driving Construction Equipment Start-Up Raises $33 Million
September 25, 2019, Built Robotics, a San Francisco start-up producing self-driving construction equipment technology, received $33 million in Series B funding last week, according to a press release. Since its inception in 2016, the company has received $48 million in total investments.
Next47, a global venture capital fund, led the Series B investment. Following the investment, T.J. Rylander (a partner at Next47) was also added to the Built Robotics Board of Directors.
“We are thrilled to partner with Built Robotics for this important milestone. Rylander stated that they have demonstrated market demand and appetite for the technology, and have deployed robots in construction projects with top companies across the country. We believe Built has the potential to lead this market, and help catalyze the deployment of this technology in construction applications.
Built Robotics technology can be fitted to existing construction equipment from any manufacturer, such as excavators, bulldozers and skidsteers. The equipment can be installed and made autonomous, which means it can be controlled remotely via a web-based platform. Built Robotics’ upgrades can be used to perform tasks such as digging trenches and excavating foundations.
“The industry is facing a shortage of qualified labor. Finding skilled workers for large-scale infrastructure projects is more challenging because of this. Built Robotics CEO Noah Ready-Campbell stated that robots can help with repetitive, basic tasks and free up operators to concentrate on more complicated activities.
Although autonomous equipment may be a solution to the labor shortage in the United States’ construction industry, safety remains a concern. Built Robotics technology includes safety features such as cameras that monitor the area and will turn off the equipment if someone gets too close. There are also failsafes that can cut off power if the machine strays too far.
These safety measures seem to be working. Built’s fleet has excavated over 100,000 tons of material so far on different projects. This gives Built a 7,500 hour operation time with an excellent safety record.
Built now will expand their equipment fleet and explore new areas in the construction industry after this series of investments. They may expand their operations into infrastructure projects such as highway and road construction as well as energy projects such as wind turbines, solar farms, and other projects. Built Robotics equipment is currently only used in remote areas where skilled workers are increasingly scarce.