Refraction AI, a company developing semi-autonomous delivery robots, today announced that it raised $4.2 million in seed funding led by Pillar VC. Refraction says that the proceeds will be used for customer acquisition, geographic expansion, and product development well into the next year.

The worsening COVID-19 health crisis in much of the U.S. seems likely to hasten the adoption of self-guided robots and drones for goods transportation. They require disinfection, which companies like KiwibotStarship Technologies, and Postmates are conducting manually with sanitation teams. But in some cases, delivery rovers like Refraction’s could minimize the risk of spreading disease. Recent market reports from Allied Market Research and Infiniti estimate that annual growth in the last-mile delivery sector over the next 10 years will exceed 14%, with the autonomous delivery segment projected to grow at over 24%, from $11.9 billion in 2021 to more than $84 billion globally by 2031.

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