Smart Transport

California grants first permit for public testing of driverless vehicles

Nuro R2 autonomous delivery vehicle

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted Nuro, the driverless delivery vehicle company, the first-ever permit for testing autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver at the wheel.

The company has already been testing driverless vehicles but these have had engineers behind the wheel.

The new permit means it can now start testing its fleet of R2 cargo vehicles without a driver or passengers in Silicon Valley, including Santa Clara, San Mateo and in the San Francisco area.

It will mean Nuro can start working with retail partners on conducting autonomous deliveries of foods, medicines and goods, something the company thinks is particularly important due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The tests will start in more remote community areas to make sure the police, first responders and local government is trained in how to interact with the R2 on public roads, particularly in the case of an emergency.

David Estrada, Nuro chief legal and policy officer, said: “Our plan is to begin service by making free deliveries to select customers in Mountain View and the surrounding area.

“This will allow us to launch a formal delivery service in partnership with local brands and retailers.

“The next step in the California regulatory process will be to apply for a full statewide commercial deployment permit to bring our services to California residents throughout the state.”

Rival company Starship has started autonomous last mile deliveries in the UK, but these trials are on public footpaths with much smaller robot vehicles, rather than on public roads like the R2.

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