Built Robotics developing autonomous excavators for construction sites



A new company called Built Robotics is developing software and sensors that can transform off-the-shelf excavators into machines that autonomously dig precise holes for hours without a break.

Founded by Noah Ready-Campbell, Built Robotics, which is headquartered in San Francisco and recently went public, has been stealthily operating a retrofitted skid steer, using a computer program to direct it and move it around dirt.

Using Built Robotics’ software, a contractor can geofence a project to ensure that the machine doesn’t go rogue. Following that, a contractor can “program in the exact parameters and where to move the dirt.”

According to Ready-Campbell, having machines that can perform these operations autonomously is important because of the lack of skilled labor to “fulfill all the demand for new roads, dams and bridges.” In addition to this reality, a lot of this work for those workers that are capable of performing these tasks is dangerous or boring.

“I've talked to some operators and they've said there are parts of my job that are really dangerous and there parts of my job that are really boring,” Ready-Campbell says via CNBC.

“If you can have a robot do those things and I can focus on the parts that really take human judgment, then that's good for me.”

The son of a general contractor, Ready-Campbell says that his father initially wasn’t a fan of the idea of machines doing this type of work autonomously, but he eventually saw the positive aspects of it.

“When I first told dad, he reacted pretty negatively. He was like, ‘Why do you want to steal these guys’ jobs?’” Ready-Campbell says via an article from the Verge.

“But after watching the machines in operation, “He’s come around on it.”  

Ready-Campbell does not know how the technology will be priced as of yet, but he is confident that there are a variety of ways to make money off of the technology, including selling Built Robotics’ sensor kits to manufacturers of these machines, or selling to contractors for retrofits. The technology could also be rented out for projects.

In the meantime, Built Robotics will work on expanding its current 10-person staff by hiring engineers. The company will do this using the $15 million it raised from Forest Baskett and Aaron Jacobson at NEA. This money will also be used to get the product ready for commercial adoption, and purchase more machines like excavators and bulldozers.