In addition to many autonomous cars for passengers and trucks, which are currently being tested in Silicon Valley and the USA, a number of delivery robots are also actively in use. While most of them resemble rather small coolers on wheels (Kiwibot, Starship Robot) that drive around on sidewalks, other start-ups are developing ones that ride along in traffic.
One of them is Nuro.ai from Mountain View, which presented its roadworthy delivery robot for the first time two years ago. Up to now, the company has mostly used Nissan Leafs and Toyota Prius as test vehicles because a special permit had to be obtained for the new delivery robots and their use on roads.
As Nuro-CEO Dave Ferguson announced in a Medium-post, this exemption has now been issued by the US Department of Transportation and the NHTSA.
The Nuro R2 vehicle will do the last mile delivery of goods from a shop to the customer. There will be no person in the vehicle itself, nor will there be any people transported; it is intended purely for goods delivery. It is half the width of a regular car, is electrically powered, is designed to withstand and navigate in inclement weather and comes with cooling for perishable goods.
Initial tests with the first generation of the delivery robot began two years ago in Scottsdale, Arizona, and now tests with this second generation will begin in Houston, Texas, in a few weeks. Previous regulations focused primarily on occupant safety and human control. With autonomous systems, however, all this is no longer necessary, but the safety of the environment becomes more important. This is the first time NHTSA regulations have been adapted to such technologies and situations.
The vehicle has therefore also installed special safety mechanisms to protect pedestrians. For example, the front of the vehicle is specially protected to avoid collisions with pedestrians and, in the event of a collision, to provide better protection. The cameras – including the rear camera – can also be in constant operation, providing a 360-degree all-round view. In the case of vehicles driven by people, for example, the rear camera must be switched off when driving forwards to avoid distracting the driver. Nuro has submitted specially developed specifications to the US DoT for this purpose.
This article was also published in German.