September 26, 2021

Robotic vehicle firm plans manufacturing facility

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A robotics company that produces driverless vehicles for grocery, pizza and prescription deliveries said Aug. 26 it intends to spend $40 million to put a manufacturing facility and test track in the Las Vegas area.

Nuro, a firm founded in 2016 and based in Mountain View, California, announced it will build the manufacturing plant for the company’s next-generation autonomous vehicle in North Las Vegas and its closed test track at the nearby Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen joined Nuro co-founder Jiajun Zhu to announce the project, which in March received about $170,500 in tax abatements over 10 years from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Zhu pointed in a statement to partnerships his company has with pizza giant Domino’s, supermarket owner Kroger and delivery company FedEx, and operating in California’s Silicon Valley, Houston and the Phoenix area.

“We are now able to invest in the infrastructure to build tens of thousands of robots,” he said.

Sisolak, a Democrat, pointed to a company promise that a $10 million capital investment will create 250 skilled tech-sector jobs during the next decade in southern Nevada.

The remaining $30 million investment would go toward long-term leases at the manufacturing and testing sites. Sisolak said the project could generate $2.2 billion in total economic value over 10 years.

“It’s one thing to introduce new jobs to the state — and it’s another thing to introduce high-quality careers to our community,” Sisolak said.

Nuro is privately held and headed by Zhu and Dave Ferguson, two engineers in Google’s self-driving Waymo car project.

The company received National Highway Traffic Safety Administration authorization in February 2020 to test up to 5,000 of its R2 autonomous robots delivering pharmacy items in Houston and groceries in Scottsdale, Arizona. The vehicles have package compartments, four-wheels, no pedals and no steering wheel.

Nuro said it intends by next year, with help from Los Angeles-based truck and bus builder BYD North America, to produce its third-generation autonomous vehicle at the Las Vegas facility.

It said the 80-acre project will include the first end-of-line manufacturing facility for autonomous delivery vehicles in the United States.