California’s Department of Motor Vehicles last week authorized autonomous technology startup Nuro to start testing two driverless delivery vehicles in nine cities, a decision that comes as coronavirus crisis led lockdown for many in the state.
U.S. companies that provide groceries, household goods and take out food are scrambling to find drivers and ways to deliver with zero or minimal contact in the coronavirus outbreak.
Nuro, the second firm after Alphabet Inc’s Waymo to get the state’s permit, has been permitted to test its low-speed R2 vehicle, about half the width of a regular car, without drivers. It has been testing autonomous automobiles on California’s roads with safety drivers since 2017.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services. Our R2 fleet is custom-designed to change the very nature of driving, and the movement of goods, by allowing people to remain safely at home while their groceries, medicines, and packages, are brought to them,” said David Estrada, the Nuro Chief Legal and Policy Officer.
The permit also indicates that Nuro can start conducting deliveries with its local retail partners, Estrada added.
The permit allows Nuro to test its automobiles in parts Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including parts of Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos and six other cities.
Nuro, a privately held robotics company based in Mountain View, California, was allowed by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in February to deploy about 5,000 low-speed electric delivery vehicles in Houston without human controls including mirrors and steering wheels.