Your groceries, pizza, and medicine can now be delivered via robotic vehicles if you live in California, as Nuro received the state’s first commercial permit for autonomous delivery. San Francisco and Silicon Valley’s streets have been bustling with self-driving vehicles from an array of companies for years. But those vehicles have only been issued permits for testing on public roads. Now, the robotics-startup Nuro has an official stamp of approval to start its paid service, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.”Issuing the first deployment permit is a significant milestone in the evolution of autonomous vehicles in California. We will continue to keep the safety of the motoring public in mind as this technology develops,” said Steve Gordon, DMV director, in a statement. In 2017, California had granted Nuro approval to test its vehicles with safety drivers inside. In April 2020, it said the company could begin testing without drivers.
Nuro in traffic.
Now, the Mountain View-based company, which raised $500 million earlier this year, can deploy its vehicles for paid deliveries.
It’ll begin service with modified Prius vehicles set in fully autonomous mode, then roll out its fleet of R2 vehicles, which don’t have driver’s seats, said David Estrada, chief legal and policy officer, in a blog post. Nuro, in early 2020 got US government permission to ditch the mirrors on its R2 fleet because, well, they don’t have seats or a steering wheel. “R2 was purposefully engineered for safety, with a design that prioritizes what’s outside — the people with whom we share the roads — over what’s inside,” Estrada said. It has a top speed of 35 mph and a small four-foot frame. It operates with thermal imaging, radar, and 360-degree cameras, to drive on the public road.The deliveries will start in two communities near Nuro’s headquarters.The company said driverless deliveries would have a “big impact” on Californians, both during and after the pandemic. They’ll help people who can’t drive and help streamline the lives of big, busy families, Nuro said.
“We’re excited to see these benefits grow into the everyday lives of the people in our communities, in the places we also call home,” Estrada said. The company has ambitions beyond local grocery delivery. Nuro last week announced it was acquiring Ike, an autonomous trucking startup, for an undisclosed sum. Among several patents filed by Nuro is one detailing how advertisements might work on the side of a self-driving vehicle.The patent describes how a self-driving vehicle’s sensor would pick up information about its surroundings and then serve an ad on the side of the vehicle based on that input. If it’s raining, say, the vehicle might display an ad for umbrellas.