- The autonomous-delivery startup Nuro just became the first self-driving vehicle company to receive an exemption from federal safety standards.
- That means Nuro can make self-driving delivery vehicles without side mirrors or windshields.
- Nuro’s new delivery vehicle, the R2, has two compartments for goods, but no steering wheel or seats.
- Nuro has delivered groceries and pizzas to customers of Kroger and Domino’s, and has announced a grocery-delivery pilot with Walmart.
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The autonomous-delivery startup Nuro is the first self-driving vehicle company to receive an exemption from the US government’s safety standards. The decision means Nuro can make self-driving delivery vehicles without features that would be required in passenger cars, like side mirrors and windshields.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the exemption on Thursday. It applies to Nuro’s new delivery vehicle, the R2, which has two compartments for goods, but no steering wheel or seats. The vehicle received an exemption from NHTSA’s standards for low-speed vehicles, which means it won’t be able to drive faster than 25 mph.
“Since this is a low-speed self-driving delivery vehicle, certain features that the Department traditionally required – such as mirrors and a windshield for vehicles carrying drivers – no longer make sense,” US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a press release.
Over the next two years, Nuro will be able to deploy up to 5,000 R2 vehicles on public roads, though NHTSA is requiring Nuro to give it updates about how its R2s perform and engage in community outreach in areas where the R2 will be used.
NHTSA’s decision has significant implications for the autonomous-driving industry, as it could pave the way for other companies to make and use self-driving vehicles without steering wheels on public roads. General Motors has asked for a similar exemption, but unlike Nuro, it wants permission to deploy self-driving vehicles that would carry passengers and drive at faster speeds than the R2. NHTSA has not yet issued a final ruling on GM’s request.
Founded in 2016 by two former employees of Google’s self-driving car program (now called Waymo), Nuro has delivered groceries and pizzas to customers of Kroger and Domino’s in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Houston, respectively. The company has also announced a grocery-delivery trial with Walmart.
Nuro’s goal is to one day make deliveries free for consumers by removing human drivers from the equation. Lower costs would mean the company could fund operations exclusively through fees charged to sellers, co-founder Dave Ferguson told Business Insider last year.
Ferguson said on Thursday that Nuro will soon start testing the R2 on public roads in Houston before using it for deliveries. The R2 is more durable and has more storage space than Nuro’s previous delivery vehicle, the R1, Ferguson said.
Nuro has raised just over $US1 billion so far, according to Pitchbook, $US940 million of which came from SoftBank, which has also invested in rivals like DoorDash and Uber.
- Read more:
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- Tesla and rivals like Waymo and GM are locked in a battle over the future of self-driving cars
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