State of California Approves Nuro’s Self-Driving Delivery Vehicles for Public Road Operations

David Estrada
Apr 7, 2020 · 3 min read

In September 2012, then California Governor Jerry Brown signed the second law in the nation — and the world — to permit self-driving vehicles to operate on public roads with no human driver behind the wheel. Then State Senator Alex Padilla authored the bill, SB 1298, for the specific purpose of improving road safety. I had the honor of working with Senator Padilla as a stakeholder on the bill, and subsequently with the California Department of Motor Vehicles on regulations to implement the law. At the time, now ancient history, our vision for the world of self-driving cars was archaic. But we knew then what we know now: autonomous driving technology can help save lives.

Nuro’s founding mission, to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life, has never felt more real to us than it does today. Admittedly, while we have always believed that self-driving delivery vehicles would improve road safety and provide valuable convenience to consumers, we did not foresee our service helping to keep Americans safe from contagion. But 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.

Today, as we live through a public health crisis, Nuro has received the first permit ever granted by the State of California to test a self-driving vehicle on public roads that is not only driverless, but also passengerless. It is only the second driverless testing permit California has granted to any company. This permit now allows Nuro to begin testing our recently unveiled R2 vehicle, in service with our partners, starting in the Silicon Valley region.

Safely rolling out testing on public roads

California is Nuro’s home, and we are excited to bring our neighborhood-friendly R2 vehicle into our communities, in close cooperation with the DMV, local leaders, and law enforcement.

Community education and engagement is a critical part of the DMV’s permitting process, and over the next few weeks and months, we’re planning various remote community engagement activities with Mountain View law enforcement and first responders, to ensure that our community leaders are fully trained on how to interact with our vehicles on public roads, particularly in cases of emergency.

Residents of Mountain View and the surrounding areas may already have seen our Prius vehicles on roads. Those vehicles have human operators monitoring their autonomous systems in order to adhere to state guidelines. Now, our driverless R2 vehicles can begin testing in the counties that make up Silicon Valley, namely Santa Clara and San Mateo, and we will continue to expand testing in other parts of the Bay Area soon. The permit granted today means that we can even begin conducting deliveries with our local retail partners.

Given current shelter-in-place orders, and our top priority of keeping our own workforce safe, we will be actively engaging in logistical planning for the day public roads testing can begin. Our hope is that residents of neighboring cities and counties will see R2 on the road soon.

Driving toward state-wide service

Our plan is to begin service by making free deliveries to select customers in Mountain View and the surrounding area. This will allow us to launch a formal delivery service in partnership with local brands and retailers. The next step in the California regulatory process will be to apply for a full statewide commercial deployment permit to bring our services to California residents throughout the state.

We have always believed in the transformative power of autonomous vehicles, and in the climate of COVID-19 we understand their potential even more deeply. Putting our driverless R2 delivery vehicles on the road in California will be an important first for our company and the self-driving industry. But it is just a glimmer of what is to come.

Nuro

On a mission to better everyday life through robotics.