That’s right the first self-driving vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals as well as no side or rear view mirrors has been cleared by the US government to be used on US streets.
Nuro, a Silicon Valley start-up, based in Mountainview, California, has received approval to deploy 5,000 of its R2 autonomous vehicles over the next two years.
Nuro’s R2 vehicles are designed to be unmanned and to carry cargo, having large compartments on its side that open up for either grocery or pizza deliveries
Nuro’s plans are to begin deployment of their R2 vehicles in Houston, Texas in six of the city’s zip code areas servicing approximately 160 thousand residents through Domino’s Pizza delivery service as well as Walmart’s grocery delivery service. Plans for these services using the R2 vehicle are to begin sometime this year, but no exact starting date has been issued.
Nuro’s R2 vehicle is classified as a low-speed vehicle which goes only as fast as 25 miles per hour and cannot weigh more than 2,500 pounds.
Nuro is the first self-driving vehicle company to receive approval from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
The US Department of Transportation (DoT) has made known to all self-driving vehicle companies to apply for exemptions of DoT vehicle standards in order for them to more quickly get their innovative technological vehicles on the road and Nuro is one of the first to receive exemption.
DoT Secretary, Elaine Chao says that for low-speed, self-driving vehicles, the usual requirements for cars such as side and rear-view mirrors, steering wheels and pedals no longer make any sense but they still do require such things as air bags and seat belts.
Along with its DoT approval though, Nuro must comply with reporting all information relating to any crashes as well as periodically reporting general information on the R2’s operation.
In the beginning of its deployment on Houston streets, the R2 will be followed by a human driven car in order to monitor it and to intervene by remote if necessary. Right now, the R2 is being tested on private land.
Nuro is planning to manufacture only a few hundred R2s this year and will be focusing its use in Houston. But when the company releases its next generation R3, the company plans to produce thousands of them then. Nuro has given no date of when it will release the R3.
The main difference between Nuro’s R2 and most self-driving vehicle companies is that Nuro is only focused on its R2s carrying goods and no people which eliminates a lot of safety and ethical questions.