Nuro unveiled its second-generation autonomous delivery vehicle today and announced that it’s been given the greenlight to drive on public roads, thanks to some federal exemptions.
The new R2 is another electric, low speed, driverless delivery vehicle from Nuro that will replace the R1. According to a corporate blog post, the company is no longer custom-making its vehicles, as it did with the R1. For the R2, Nuro has partnered with a Michigan-based company called Roush to design and assemble the new models.
According to the announcement post, the R2 features a more durable body so it can handle bad weather, as well as an updated sensor array, two-thirds more cargo space (without increasing the width of the vehicle), and a new temperature control system. A new custom battery also means that the R2 can run all day.
But all these bells and whistles are useless if it’s not allowed to drive on public roads. Which is why Nuro applied for regulatory exemption from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. As Nuro points out in its post explaining the move, today’s regulations were made for traditional cars. But the R2 is a totally different type of vehicle. From the post:
Today’s decision shows that “exemption” can mean more safety. It allows us to replace the mirrors relied on by human drivers with cameras and other sensors. We can round the edges of the vehicle body to take up less road space, and make it safer for those around us. In addition, we can remove the windshield meant to let human drivers see out and keep passengers in — instead using a specially designed panel at the vehicle’s front that absorbs energy, better protecting pedestrians. And we won’t have to ever turn off the rearview cameras that help R2 see (part of a rule meant to avoid distracting human drivers), providing a constant 360-degree view with no blind spots.
The company says it will be rolling out delivery on public roads in Houston in the coming weeks. Getting the federal thumbs up should help Nuro and its customers like Kroger, Walmart and Domino’s expand driverless delivery into new cities. As we’ve discussed before, technology is changing rapidly, and state and local governments are grappling with creating regulations that balance innovation with safety, accessibility and revenue in real time.
With its new design that can handle inclement weather, we’ll have to see if Nuro starts expanding delivery programs beyond the bright and sunny climates of Arizona and Texas. Will it move in on Refraction AI’s snowbound, Michigan turf?
Technology like Nuro’s has the potential to drastically change the delivery game. Pod-like vehicles can run all day and night, quietly delivering meals, groceries and more to your door with just the tap of a button. And now that Nuro has the OK from the government, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them on the road.