Refraction AI, a Michigan startup developing autonomous delivery robots, appointed a former Ford Motor Co. and mobility-industry veteran its new CEO on Wednesday.
Luke Schneider becomes Refraction AI’s CEO at a time when the pandemic has accelerated demand for automated and contactless delivery systems. He had been CEO at wejo, an early-stage traffic-analytics company connecting cities with vehicle data.
He replaces Refraction AI co-founder Matthew Johnson-Roberson, who stays on as chief technology officer, a role in which he’ll remain focused on developing the company’s autonomous-driving system and the next generation of robots.
“As we scale up and continue to solidify the key role of delivery robots in people’s daily lives, Luke’s wealth of knowledge in the mobility space will be critical in our next phase of growth,” Johnson-Roberson said in a statement.
Founded in 2017, Refraction AI has focused on food delivery. Its REV-1 prototype vehicles weigh about 100 pounds and have three wheels and a small electric motor. They travel at 12 to 15 mph and are tailored to trundle along bike lanes. The company has tested the service in Ann Arbor.
“We’ve been building something that we can put out there on the roads and use to conceivably take over big chunks of the last-mile delivery market, and all that was pre-COVID,” Johnson-Roberson told Automotive News in May.
Schneider has experience developing new markets for mobility services. He’s helped launch Silvercar and Zipcar, which were later acquired by Audi and Avis Budget, respectively. He started his career at Ford, where he worked in product development, strategic planning and operations positions.