Serve Robotics has hired Euan Abraham to head up the development of the company’s autonomous sidewalk delivery robots, the company has told The Spoon. Abraham, who in the past led the development of GoPro’s Karma drone and has also had stints leading engineering teams at Apple and smart lock company Otto, will become the company’s Vice President of Hardware Engineering effective January 2022.
The new hire is a sign the company is entering a new phase, according to Serve’s CEO, Ali Kashani, who sat down with The Spoon this week to talk about the hiring of Abraham.
A big focus for Abraham will be to take a company that has primarily been focused early on developing a robot and optimizing its capabilities through its initial trials in West Hollywood to one that can deploy large fleets at scale across multiple markets.
“This is a space that has kind of reached readiness for scale,” Kashani told The Spoon. “So we are at a very pivotal point where we are no longer trying to develop something. We have developed something, and now we are putting it to use.”
It’s not just about scaling but getting better, according to Kashani. “It’s easy to get distracted with scale where you lose your innovative edge. We want to continue to iterate on our hardware, and we don’t want to stop here. We want to keep making it better.”
The areas where Kashani thinks Serve can get better are areas where he believes the company already stands out from its peer group, the first of which is autonomy. He says Serve’s robots do most of the driving themselves, which has enabled Serve’s human teleoperators to manage more than one robot at a time.
This high level of autonomy wouldn’t be possible without the Serve’s built-in safety systems, another area where Kashani believes his robots stand out.
“Our robots have a lot of onboard safety mechanisms so that they can be independent. They can be there by themselves.,” Kashani said. “At the same time, they also have people backing them up. So we have the best of both worlds.”
Serve’s other major differentiator isn’t a technical one, but it may be the company’s biggest ace in the hole: its relationship with Uber. Earlier this year, Uber spun out the robot group which it had acquired as part of the Postmates acquisition, and this month, Serve announced that Uber would be the company’s first commercial partner. The two companies plan to roll out a fleet of robots to deliver food to Uber Eats customers across the LA market in 2022.
While Abraham’s hiring is undoubtedly a significant strategic move for the company, Kashani says they aren’t done. With Uber’s rollout of autonomous delivery and Serve eyeing new markets like the Bay area, Kashani says Serve has several areas the company is looking for more talent, including autonomous driving, operations, supply chain, and HR.
“We are always looking for kind of more folks to join,” Kashani said. “It’s a never-ending kind of story.