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Autonomous Delivery Startup Nuro Gets Approval From California's DMV to Deploy its Vehicles Without a Human Backup

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【Summary】Autonomous grocery delivery startup Nuro announced its been granted a permit from the state of California to deploy is compact autonomous delivery vehicles on public roads in Silicon Valley without a human backup driver. Nuro becomes the second permit issued in the state that allows it to operate its driverless vehicles without human supervision.

FutureCar Staff    Apr 07, 2020 3:15 PM PT
Autonomous Delivery Startup Nuro Gets Approval From California's DMV to Deploy its Vehicles Without a Human Backup
Nuro's R2 electric and autonomous delivery vehicle will soon be on the streets.

With much of the country ordered to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have been ordering meals and groceries from a handful of companies including Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub and big retailers such as Target. 

Autonomous grocery delivery startup Nuro announced its been granted a permit from the state of California to deploy is compact autonomous delivery vehicles on public roads in Silicon Valley without a human backup driver. 

Nuro becomes the second permit issued in the state that allows it to operate its driverless vehicles without human supervision. The other company is Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet Inc. which spun out of Google's early self-driving car project.

For the crop of new autonomous delivery startups in Silicon Valley, the lockdown provides an opportunity to court new customers, as more people are relying on more convenient and much needed delivery options. Nuro's fleet of delivery vehicles allow people to remain safely at home while their groceries, medicines or packages are brought to them during the shelter-in-place orders. 

The company's fully-electric "R2" delivery vehicle is limited to speeds of 25mph and has a specially designed pedestrian-protecting front end and is programmed with software to make it as safe as possible around pedestrians and other vehicles. It's also more maneuverable in tight places.

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Nuro's compact delivery vehicles are fully-electric and autonomous.

In a blog post, Nuro's Chief Legal & Policy Officer Dave Estrada wrote, "While we have always believed that self-driving delivery vehicles would improve road safety and provide valuable convenience to consumers, we did not foresee our service helping to keep Americans safe from contagion. But the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services." 

With the current shelter-in-place orders, Nuro said it will be actively engaged in logistical planning for when public roads testing can begin. The next step in the California regulatory process will be to apply for a full statewide commercial deployment permit.

By granting the exception to Nuro, the state is opening the doors for other companies that plan to deliver goods using unmanned vehicles designed to carry cargo instead of people. 

"The safety of the motoring public is the DMV's top priority, and we do not give out these permits lightly," California DMV director Steve Gordon said. "Nuro has met the DMV's requirements to receive this permit to test their driverless delivery vehicles on California's public roads."

Nuro plans to make free deliveries to select customers in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View and the surrounding area before launching a formal delivery service in partnership with local brands and retailers.

Nuro said it envisions "a future where everything comes to you, on-demand, for free."

Silicon Valley-based Nuro, founded in 2016, is one of dozens of startups working on autonomous, last-mile delivery services. The company is also well-funded. 

A year ago, Nuro raised $940 million in its latest round of financing from the SoftBank Vision Fund. To date, Nuro has raised more than $1 billion from partners including SoftBank, as well as Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock Partners and China's Gaorong Capital.

Over the past two years, Nuro expanded its grocery delivery service with supermarket chain Kroger in Houston and partnered with pizza chain Domino's on a autonomous pizza delivery pilot.

"Putting our driverless R2 delivery vehicles on the road in California will be an important first for our company and the self-driving industry. But it is just a glimmer of what is to come." the company wrote in its blog post.

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