Founded by former Google engineers, the US start-up Nuro is to make goods delivery autonomous and electric. They now launched the next-gen pod, R2, and say they can start testing in Houston within weeks. Regulators have approved a driverless exemption for this purpose.
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The exemption granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is for Nuro’s latest low-speed electric vehicle called the R2. The autonomous electric vehicle aims for local delivery service for restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses. The R2 builds on Nuro’s R1. Back in January 2018, it was still a prototype.
Now the company has moved on, and with the exemption, the R2 will soon join Nuro’s fleet of self-driving Prius vehicles in Houston, making deliveries to consumers on public roads, the company said.
The federal exemption allows the E.V. to operate without side-view mirrors, windshield and a rear-view camera that shuts off when driving forward. The list of exceptions is so short as the R2 operates at low speeds. However, there are conditions. Nuro has the exemption for two years and is required to submit reports on the A.V. driving system and notice communities where the R2 will be deployed. The exemption allows Nuro to produce and use no more than 5,000 R2 vehicles during the two-year exemption period.
Update 09 April 2020: Nuro has now been granted permission by the authorities to test two light-duty delivery vehicles in nine Bay Area cities in California. The vehicles may not exceed 25 mph and are only approved to operate in fair weather conditions on streets with no more than a 35 mph speed limit.
Nuro says it plans to begin testing as soon as it’s feasible. “Our first plan is to make free deliveries to select customers in Mountain View and the surrounding area,” said Nuro’s chief legal and policy officer David Estrada in a blog post. Although the company is not permitted to charge delivery fees, it is allowed to generate revenue by working with local retailers to launch a commercial delivery business using the autonomous vehicles.
“This will allow us to launch a formal delivery service in partnership with local brands and retailers. The next step in the California regulatory process will be to apply for a full statewide commercial deployment permit to bring our services to California residents throughout the state,” explained Estrada.
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