Helping the Heroes during COVID-19

Dave Ferguson
Apr 22 · 5 min read

A worldwide health crisis

Around the globe, COVID-19 has taken a tragic toll. Over 2.5 million people have been infected and the virus has taken nearly 177,000 lives. For those of us who have been lucky enough to remain healthy, the pandemic is causing us to live more isolated lives than we could have previously imagined. Most of us are staying home under shelter-in-place orders, venturing out only when necessary. Those fortunate enough to do so are conducting their work from home, while millions more are being laid off or furloughed.

True heroes have emerged from this crisis. Doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and first responders are risking their lives every day to keep the rest of us safe and to keep society functioning. Their selflessness and service has been an inspiration to the rest of us.

At Nuro, we build robots. Our mission is to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life, and we aspire to one day make a massive positive contribution to the world through this technology. But we aren’t there yet. And we know robots aren’t going to solve this crisis. People are. Heroes are.

That being said, as a company we want to play whatever role we can to help today’s heroes do their jobs safely and focus on doing what only they can do.

We thought hard about how (and whether) we could contribute with our technology. And we realized that we could potentially use our R2 unmanned vehicles to provide truly contactless delivery of goods, where we remove any possible interaction between a driver dropping off goods and a person picking them up. Our team subsequently began conversations with federal, state, and local organizations to volunteer our service.

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Helping where we can

What we found through these conversations were multiple examples of incredible American ingenuity and hustle. And we were further energized as a company to shift our time and resources towards contributing as much as possible to the COVID-19 efforts we witnessed.

As a result, this week we begin two new initiatives to put R2 into service.

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First, in our home state of California, the Governor’s office — along with various state agencies — has mobilized to convert a number of facilities into temporary hospitals to treat those suffering from COVID-19. Over the past few weeks, they’ve worked to convert the Sleep Train Arena (STA), a former NBA arena and previously home of the Sacramento Kings, into one of these alternative care facilities to house up to 400 COVID-19 patients. Beginning this week, our unmanned R2 vehicles start service at STA, doing contactless delivery of medical supplies to help patients affected by COVID-19.

Similarly, San Mateo County recently converted its Event Center into a multi-purpose facility to assist with COVID-19 response, creating a testing facility, alternative housing site, and field hospital. This week we are also deploying R2 vehicles at this site, to transport food, water, and other supplies on an as-needed basis.

Through providing a contactless delivery solution with R2 in Sacramento and in San Mateo, we can help ensure healthcare workers have the supplies they need at hand, saving them time while also helping foster the safety and health of both patients and staff.

And by reducing the time and overall contact needed for front line workers and patients to get food, medicine, and other essentials, we hope that we can do our small part to help slow the spread of the virus.

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Our continuing commitment

When we set out to build Nuro, we wanted to develop robotics products and services to help people around the world. Beginning with autonomous delivery, we wanted to give people their time back, so they could spend it in more valuable ways — like with their loved ones. We wanted to improve the safety, efficiency, and experience of running errands. But we never imagined that we would need to collectively respond to a pandemic.

COVID-19 has emerged as an undeniably massive, and likely long-term, challenge. As a company it has caused us to grow and shift our awareness of those we can help. We now consider the grocery store worker who carries groceries out to customers’ cars. The neighbor who goes to the drug store to pick up essentials for vulnerable residents of the same apartment complex. All of the logistics personnel who move things in and out of hospitals. The warehouse workers who load vehicles with goods to be delivered to our homes. In all of these interactions, peoples’ lives can be stricken by illness caused through too many human touch points.

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We are mindful that contactless delivery services like ours are not going to solve this crisis. Not even close. Getting through this will require an unprecedented coordinated effort from all of us, and most of all from the heroes on the front lines. But we are grateful to have the opportunity to play a small part and have been inspired by what we have seen along the way.

And to the heroes, thank you.

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Nuro

Our mission is to accelerate the benefits of robotics for…

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