- The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued Nuro a permit to operate two self-driving delivery vehicles on select streets in the Bay Area without a safety driver present. Nuro is the second company to get such a permit after Waymo received one in November 2018.
- Nuro's two fully driverless cars will have a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and will only be allowed to operate in fair weather conditions on streets with speed limits of 35 miles per hour.
- The company’s R2 fleet will start service with free deliveries to some customers in Mountain View, CA, Nuro’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer David Estrada wrote in a Medium post. He said the approval also comes at a time when the public needs "contactless delivery services," as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
A successful run for Nuro could have big implications for last-mile delivery, often the least efficient part of transport. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) could help speed goods to customers in the final mile segment of the supply chain, keeping human drivers on the road for longer trips and bulkier deliveries.
The news comes months after the California DMV approved revised regulations to allow the commercial use of light-duty autonomous delivery vehicles on public roads without a safety driver. The rule only applies to vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds, such as passenger cars, mid-size pickup trucks and cargo vans. Nuro's R2 also falls within that weight limit.
Nuro has had to meet a number of requirements to receive operating permits, including verifying its vehicles can operate without a driver, meeting federal vehicle standards and having an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Nuro has been approved to test autonomous vehicles (AVs) with a safety driver present since 2017.
In his Medium post, Estrada said the company is planning "various remote community engagement activities with Mountain View law enforcement and first responders" in a bid to educate the leaders and the public about how to interact with the delivery vehicles. The company hopes to eventually roll the vehicles out statewide if everything goes well, Estrada added.
In February, the Virginia state legislature approved a bill that would allow Amazon to operate autonomous delivery robots on roads and sidewalks. Washington, DC has also moved to expand their use. Meanwhile, Postmates announced last August it would deploy its delivery robots to the streets of San Francisco.