UPDATED: Jan. 4, 2021: The California Department of Motor Vehicles last month issued the state's first autonomous vehicle deployment permit to Nuro, allowing the company to launch a fee-based driverless delivery business in two Bay Area counties.
The announcement follows a testing permit issued to Nuro in April that allowed the company to test its AVs without a driver present, but limited the company from accepting any compensation. The deployment permit now grants Nuro permission to deploy its light-duty vehicles for commercial delivery services in nine cities across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including Mountain View, Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
Nuro will launch its service with a fleet of autonomous Prius vehicles, followed by its electric R2 vehicles. The vehicles will be limited to a maximum speed of 25 mph on streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less, and are only approved to operate in fair weather conditions, according to the DMV.
Outside of California, Nuro's R2 vehicles are also undergoing testing in Phoenix and Houston.
- 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 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.
AVs remain controversial due to safety concerns and the lack of a strong federal regulatory framework.
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.