Nuro has 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 be issued permits for testing on public roads. Now, the robotics-start-up Nuro has an official stamp of approval to state its paid service, according to the California Department of Motor vehicles.
In a statement, Steve Gordon, DMV director said, “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.”
In 2017, California had granted Nuro approval to test its vehicles with safety drivers inside. In April 2020, it said the company begins testing without drivers. 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, and 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.
Estrada said, “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.” 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 will help people who can drive, and help streamline the lives of big, busy families, Nuro said.
The patent described 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. It it’s raining, say, the vehicle might display an ad for umbrellas.