Nuro Inc, the robotics company that raised $940 million in funding from SoftBank last year, has been given the go-ahead to test its autonomous delivery vehicles on the streets of some Californian cities.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Nuro is now allowed to test its low-speed autonomous delivery vehicles in Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Woodside, TechCrunch reports.
This makes Nuro the second company to be granted a license to operate vehicles without a driver in California. Alphabet’s Waymo, which was allowed to begin driverless tests back in 2017, being the other.
Like Waymo, Nuro is only permitted to use its vehicles on roads with speed limits of up to 35 mph (56 km/h). The vehicles themselves are limited to 25 mph (40 km/h). Unfortunately for the company, testing has to wait until coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted.
For now, the company is restricted to planning the logistics of tests.
In a blog post earlier this week, the company’s chief legal and policy officer, David Estrada, said the company would begin tests with its recently unveiled R2 vehicle.
Given that tests can’t start right away, this might seem fairly inconsequential news, but there are a few important takeaways.
Nuro’s R2 vehicle is not only driverless, but passenger-less, and designed to carry cargo. Back in February, the company became the first to receive a legal exemption allowing it to produce and test autonomous vehicles that don’t have space or controls for a human driver.
It’s also the first company in three years to receive regulatory approval to start testing driverless vehicles in California — which has a reputation for being a stickler for safety measures.
When it comes to autonomous vehicles, being overly cautious is no bad thing. But when a state like California grants permission, it shows that lawmakers are actually coming round to the idea of autonomous vehicles on our streets.
Tech like Nuro’s R2 couldn’t come at a better time. With lockdown policies in place around the world, driverless delivery vehicles, (read social distance delivery vehicles) sound like an undeniably good idea.