Driverless startup Nuro gets green light to become the first autonomous-vehicle delivery service in California
- The company plans to begin delivery service in the state in 2021
- Its cars are restricted to 35mph and may only operate in ‘fair weather’ conditions
- Nuro’s R2 has no pedals, steering wheel or room for passengers
- It relies on thermal imaging, radar and 360-degree cameras to ‘see’ the road
A driverless-vehicle startup has become the first company approved to make deliveries in in California using an autonomous vehicle.
Mountain View, California-based Nuro says it plans to begin commercial service as early as next year.
Nuro started testing its fleet on California roads in 2017 and, during the pandemic, has shuttled medical goods to a Sacramento field hospital.
The permit, however, will allow the company to charge for its service.
Founded by two former Google engineers, Nuro will first launch a fleet of autonomous Toyota Priuses, then introduce its own low-speed R2 vehicle.
The R2 has no pedals, steering wheel, sideview mirrors or room for passengers.
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Nuro has become the first company approved to make deliveries with an autonomous vehicle in the state of California
‘Issuing the first deployment permit is a significant milestone in the evolution of autonomous vehicles in California,’ said Steve Gordon, director of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
‘We will continue to keep the safety of the motoring public in mind as this technology develops.’
Nuro’s fleet will be restricted to 35mph and can only operate in ‘fair weather’ conditions.
The R2 is a ‘Level Four’ fully autonomous vehicle, meaning it does not require human instruction for most situations.
Numo’s R2 has no steering wheel, pedals or room for passengers. It relies on thermal imaging, radar and 360-degree cameras to ‘see’ the road
It relies instead on thermal imaging, radar, and 360-degree cameras to ‘see’ the road, though a human operator can still control the vehicle remotely.
Its small 4-foot frame means other cars and pedestrians have a sizable ‘buffer’ to maneuver around it.
Last year, Nuro deployed a fleet of robocars in Houston, delivering pizzas for Domino’s and groceries for Kroger supermarkets, among other services.
Over the summer, it began delivering prescriptions to CVS customers in the city at no extra charge, with a self-driving Prius arriving curbside within three hours.
The R2’s petit 4-foot frame means other cars and pedestrians have a sizable ‘buffer’ to maneuver around it
To ensure security, customers must enter a special PIN provided to them upon ordering to unlock the vehicle’s vertical hatches and collect their medication.
One of the top companies pioneering truly driverless vehicles, Nuro received an exemption to mass-produce its products in the US earlier this year.
Last month, it raised $500 million in venture capital, boosted by a massive uptick in interest in e-commerce and contact-free service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company also announced this week that it has acquired the driverless-truck startup Ike.
Driverless Nuro vehicles began delivering prescriptions to CVS customers in Houston this summer
‘Our companies already have a lot in common — shared values, complementary expertise, and technology with the same DNA,’ Ike wrote in a blog post.
‘After years of hard work to fulfill the promise of automated vehicles, we expect 2021 to be an important moment for Nuro and for the world,’ it added.
Ike, which was already licensing Nuro software, has signed contracts to provide driverless tech to delivery giants like DHL and Ryder.