Seegrid, a company that builds self-driving vehicles to carry materials in industrial environments, has added a further $27 million to its recent equity funding. This closes the round at $52 million and takes the company’s total raised to $150 million, with a valuation “in excess of $400 million.”

Founded in 2003, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based has created two vision-guided vehicles (VGVs) capable of moving materials in warehouses and manufacturing sites — completely autonomously. The company has two vehicles on the market — a pallet truck that can transport 8,000 pounds of goods and a tow tractor that can shift 10,000 pounds.

Equipped with stereo cameras and smarts, the VGVs are designed to “see just like humans do,” enabling them to navigate dynamic environments without any additional infrastructure installation.

Above: A Seegrid VGV navigating through a warehouse

Importantly, the vehicles can be retrained entirely in-house to follow new routes, with humans driving or walking alongside a Seegrid VGV to teach it which path to follow.

Seegrid

Above: Seegrid

Automation and jobs

The funding extension comes amid unprecedented demand for automated technologies due to the COVID-19 crisis. Seegrid CEO Jim Rock said he expects the company to double its revenues in 2020, which means it will have to expedite product development and new hires.

“This investment allows Seegrid to more quickly meet demand and accelerate new product introductions previously scheduled for 2021 and 2022, as well as support significant growth and hiring plans,” Rock told VentureBeat. “Seegrid has more than 200 employees now and plans to add at least 100 more across the organization.”

and automation have helped get many industries back to work, but the expansion of automation raises concerns about a longer-term impact on jobs. However, we’re already seeing some new jobs emerge, with Rock citing robot fleet manager as one such role.

Whether increased automation leads to a net loss, gain, or draw isn’t clear, but robots are becoming a more visible presence across both work and social environments, and investors are plowing large sums of money into the companies.

While Seegrid said Menlo Park-based G2VP led the initial $25 million from its latest round, Seegrid hasn’t divulged who topped up the round, beyond noting that the funds came from “leading technology and robotics investors.”

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