Federal regulators on Thursday cleared the way for a Mountain View startup to use self-driving robot vehicles on the nation's roads for its grocery delivery service, the company announced in its blog.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded an exemption to Nuro Inc. that allows the company to use self-driving vehicles without side mirrors or rear visibility, which are two requirements by federal standards for passenger vehicles.
The exemption applies to Nuro's second-generation vehicle, R2, which was custom-built to carry packages instead of people, the company says.
"We custom-designed R2 to enrich local commerce with last-mile delivery of consumer products, groceries, and hot food from local stores and restaurants," Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson wrote in his blog. "With its specially designed size, weight, pedestrian-protecting front end, operating speed, electric propulsion, and cautious driving habits, R2 is ready to begin service as a socially responsible neighborhood vehicle that you can trust."
For the R2, the company partnered with Roush, a product development supplier based in Michigan, to design and assemble the vehicles, Nuro said. With Roush's help, the R2 has a more durable vehicle body, more compartment space, better temperature control and added battery life.
Nuro will begin public road testing the vehicles in the coming weeks in Houston, where it has teamed with Walmart to begin deliveries to customers' homes in that city.
Nuro was founded in 2016 by two former Google engineers, Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu.