Nuro’s driverless delivery pod greenlighted for California trial

Nuro caught our eye a long time ago with its cool-looking autonomous pod (pictured below) designed for grocery delivery.

And now it’s been given the green light to test its compact autonomous vehicle on the streets of California.

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles this week gave Nuro the go-ahead to trial its electric R2 delivery pod on public roads, allowing the vehicle to transport orders from company to customer.

Nuro has already been testing the R2 in states such as Texas and Arizona, with the expansion to California offering the company a new opportunity to show off its technology as it continues its development.

The Nuro R2 autonomous vehicle carries no passengers — only goods — and comes with all of the usual sensors, cameras, lidar, and radar technology to keep it on the road and out of trouble. It features gull-wing cargo doors that bring to mind the DeLorean made famous by Back to the Future, though at 25 mph, the R2’s top speed is rather more modest. As it has no space for humans, a Nuro engineer will follow the pod in another vehicle during the test phase in California.

Customers who place an order with a service using the R2 can use an app to track the vehicle as it makes its way toward their home. When it arrives, an alert pops up on the customer’s smartphone. Collecting the delivery requires nothing more than entering a code number on the R2’s touchscreen that unlocks the appropriate compartment.

Nuro

David Estrada, chief legal and policy officer at Nuro, commented on California’s decision through the prism of the coronavirus crisis, with lockdowns across the country placing more demand than ever on delivery services.

“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,” Estrada wrote.

“But the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services. Our R2 fleet is custom-designed to change the very nature of driving, and the movement of goods, by allowing people to remain safely at home while their groceries, medicines, and packages are brought to them.”

Estrada said the initial plan is to use the R2 to make free deliveries to select customers living close to its Mountain View base in Silicon Valley, with local brands and retailers invited to get involved.

Nuro is one of many companies eyeing the market for autonomous deliveries, with other firms such as Waymo, AutoX, Udelv, and Boxbot working on similar initiatives.

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