Having your shopping delivered by a robot car will soon be a reality in the United States. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have approved a regulatory exemption to give their blessings to the first autonomous car without a steering wheel, pedals, or human occupant destined for home delivery.
Developed by a Silicon Valley startup founded in 2016 by two former Google engineers, Nuro, the Nuro R2 is the second generation of the autonomous vehicle for home delivery. It is a small van with a very compact size specially designed for the delivery of consumer products, such as grocery shopping or food delivery. The entire space of your cabin is intended for loading and is designed not to carry any occupant on board.
The vehicle does not need a classic braking system, steering wheel, windshield wiper, side, and rearview mirror or other necessary safety provisions for vehicles driven by humans. It is the first road registration of a vehicle that is designed to operate without a driver.
“Today’s decision shows that “exemption” can mean more safety. It allows us to replace the mirrors relied on by human drivers with cameras and other sensors. We can round the edges of the vehicle body to take up less road space, and make it safer for those around us,” explains Dave Ferguson, co-founder, and president of Nuro.
“In addition, we can remove the windshield meant to let human drivers see out and keep passengers in – instead of using a specially designed panel at the vehicle’s front that absorbs energy, better protecting pedestrians. And we won’t have ever to turn off the rearview cameras that help R2 see (part of a rule meant to avoid distracting human drivers), providing a constant 360-degree view with no blind spots.”
Because the installed technology, which includes cameras, but offers the same level of security as a “real” control device, the Nuro R2 was granted a special permit.
The company has been testing its autonomous vehicle since 2018, which was initially the Nuro R1, but will now take advantage of the exemption granted to optimize the second version. In the coming weeks, it will participate in a pilot delivery service program for Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Domino’s Pizza that will take place on the public streets of Houston.