Toro Acquires Autonomous Landscaping Equipment Manufacturer

Built Robotics' self-driving equipment has the potential to be a game-changing innovation for the construction industry, and investors are buying in.

(UPDATE) March 4, 2021— This week, Toro announced that it has acquired Left Hand Robotics, a robotics company that designs and produces autonomous (also known as self-driving) landscaping equipment. While Toro is not at all new to the self-driving equipment space, having launched the innovative but flawed “iMow” in the early 2000s, this acquisition signals that the manufacturer is at least starting to set its sights on a more robotic future.

“The acquisition supports The Toro Company’s strategy of leadership in next-generation technologies, including alternative power, smart connected, and autonomous products,” reads Toro’s official statement on the acquisition.

Left Hand currently produces one autonomous landscaping machine, the RT-1000. The RT-1000 Tractor is described as a “fully-autonomous workbot” that can be outfitted with attachments for either clearing snow or mowing grass. The robot follows whatever pre-determined path is mapped by its operator and it can run even during periods of inclement weather thanks to its all-wheel hydraulic drive system.

Toro has not yet offered any information as to what exactly they have planned for their latest acquisition, although it has been confirmed that Left Hand will not be moved and will continue to operate out of Colorado. Regardless, many landscaping industry institutions will likely be paying close attention to whether Toro continues to use Left Hand to produce commercial-grade autonomous landscaping equipment or instead chooses to bring that self-driving technology to consumer-friendly products.


Self-Driving Construction Equipment Start-Up Raises $33 Million

September 25, 2019— Built Robotics, a San Francisco-based start-up that produces self-driving construction equipment technology, raised $33 million in investments during its Series B round last week according to a press release. The company has now gained a total of $48 million in investments since being founded in 2016.

The Series B investment was led by Next47, a global venture fund. T.J. Rylander, a partner at Next47, has also been added to the Built Robotics board of directors following the investment.

built robotics autonomous excavation equipment self driving constructionCourtesy of Built Robotics

“We’re excited to be partnering with Built Robotics on this significant milestone. They have proven market appetite and demand for the technology and have deployed working robots with leading construction companies around the country,” said Rylander. “We believe Built is poised to lead this market and catalyze deployment of this technology across construction applications.”

Built Robotics’ technology can be installed onto existing construction equipment, including excavators, bulldozers, and skidsteers, from any manufacturer. Once installed, the equipment becomes self-driving, or “autonomous”, and can then be managed remotely from a web-based platform. Equipment that has been upgraded with Built Robotics’ kits can perform tasks that range from digging trenches, excavating foundation, and grading out building pads.

built robotics autonomous equipment operator looking at softwareCourtesy of Built Robotics

“The shortage of qualified labor is an industry-wide challenge right now, and finding skilled workers is even more difficult on large-scale remote infrastructure projects. Our robotic equipment is able to shoulder some of the load by assisting with basic, repetitive tasks, freeing up human operators to focus on more complex activities,” said Noah Ready-Campbell, CEO of Built Robotics.

While autonomous equipment does offer a potential solution to the current labor shortage in the United States construction industry, safety is still a concern. Built Robotics’ technology has several built-in safety measures, including cameras on and around the machine that will shut the equipment down if anyone gets too close during operation as well as additional failsafes and sensors that cut the power if the machine tips too far in one direction.

It seems as though those safety measures are working. To date, Built’s fleet of autonomous equipment has already excavated 100,000 tons of material on various projects, equaling an operation time of 7,500 hours with a perfect safety record.

built robotics equipment operator looking at excavation equipmentCourtesy of Built Robotics

Following this series of investments, Built now plans to scale out their fleet of equipment while branching into new areas of the construction industry. Areas they may expand into include infrastructure projects like highway and road construction, as well as energy projects like wind turbines and solar farms. Currently, Built Robotics equipment operates mainly in remote areas with low populations where skilled workers are becoming increasingly difficult to find. 

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