The media frenzy around self-driving vehicles has mostly been drowned out by this year’s more pressing concerns. That said, the need for contactless ways to transport goods has actually become even more important exactly because of those concerns. Deliveries have become more common, especially in places where movement has been restricted but human drivers and couriers still pose a health risk these days. It’s pretty opportune, then, that Nuro just received California’s deploy permit that allows it to commercially operate its autonomous vehicles to make deliveries in two counties.
This has been a long but fruitful year for Nuro, reaching a milestone that has almost been three years in the making. In February, it was granted an exception to have its driverless R2 drive on public streets and was finally granted a permit in California to run tests of its autonomous delivery vehicles in April. In October, it started testing the self-driving car in three states without any chase cars monitoring it.
Now Nuro has been cleared to actually make a profit from these vehicles. The deployment permit allows the company to charge for deliveries using the self-driving cars, beating out competitors in that still nascent market. It probably helps that the autonomous cars carry only goods and not people.
The company says it will start with its Prius fleet first but the real highlight will be its custom-designed R2 vehicles. Introduced earlier this year, the Nuro R2’s production was outsourced to famed performance car maker Roush and introduced a larger cabin space for more items as well as temperature controls. Sensor upgrades included LIDAR and the ability to identify emergency vehicle sirens.
The California DMV’s deployment permit only covers San Mateo and Santa Clara counties but there is still no word which cities and companies Nuro would partner with for its delivery services. The commercial service is expected to begin sometime in 2021 and, as expected, the company is settings its sights on expanding soon after.