It's a potential game-changer as demand grows for home delivery during and after the pandemic. The green light from the DMV gives Mountain View's Nuro the ability to launch a fleet of autonomous vehicles to make commercial deliveries using public streets. It has developed a Prius along with a custom-built vehicle, called the R2.
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"It is a zero occupant vehicle, so there's no space for a human inside of it," said Aidan Sullivan, Nuro's director of public policy and government relations. "It is smaller and narrower than a standard passenger vehicle. However, it is fully road legal, and the vehicle has two compartments."
The compartments can be customized to keep pizza hot or groceries cool. Customers will be notified on their smartphones when a delivery has left so they can track arrival and be curbside to take delivery.
Nuro has been testing its autonomous vehicles for two years in the Phoenix and Houston areas. The initial service area will be portions of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in and around Palo Alto.
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When deployed early next year, the vehicles will operate entirely on their own to obey traffic signals and to move safely around pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles. Top speed is limited to 25 miles per hour. No so-called chase cars with humans will be lurking in the background.
"That was part of the process with the DMV to review both the safety and the reliability standpoint of the vehicles," explained Sullivan. So is a requirement for $5 million in insurance.
Nuro is lining up restaurants, grocers and retail stores to handle their deliveries. Contactless, driver-free deliveries are coming soon with no tip expected.
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