The California Department of Motor Vehicles last week awarded Bay Area robotics company Nuro a permit to deploy autonomous vehicles on public streets for commercial purposes, meaning it can make money from the services its cars provide.
This is the first self-driving deployment permit granted in the state, “a significant milestone in the evolution of autonomous vehicles in California,” says DMV Director Steve Gordon.
Nuro has been allowed to test its autonomous vehicles on public roads with a safety driver since 2017 and received a driverless testing permit in April 2020. But it can now expand into actually charging customers for services like grocery deliveries or medication drop-offs.
Nuro will offer service in parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which includes the cities of Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Woodside. The vehicles will be limited to a maximum speed of 25mph and can only operate in fair weather conditions on streets with a speed limit of no more than 35mph, according to the DMV.
Service will start with Nuro’s fleet of autonomous Prius cars, followed by its custom-designed electric R2 vehicles. “R2 was purposefully engineered for safety, with a design that prioritizes what’s outside—the people with whom we share the roads—over what’s inside,” says chief legal and policy officer David Estrada. “We have extensively tested our self-driving technology and built a track record of safe operations over the past four years, including two successful commercial deployments in other states and driverless testing with R2 in the Bay Area communities where we plan to deploy.”
“Driverless delivery will have a big impact for [residents] in the coming year,” Estrada says. “Services like Nuro’s will provide contactless access to goods in our communities.” A parent in Mountain View, for example, can get groceries delivered at home, rather than masking up the whole family for a trip to the supermarket. Or an elderly East Palo Alto resident can access home delivery of medications and everyday necessities without jeopardizing their health.
“And a young woman in San Jose will get the opportunity to start a new career overseeing the operation of a driverless fleet of vehicles that will deliver on these promises,” Nuro says. “We’re excited to see these benefits grow into the everyday lives of the people in our communities, in the places we also call home.”