The first self-driving delivery vehicle designed without basic human controls has received a permit to test drive on US roads.
Nuro, the company behind the self-driving delivery vehicle, has received a permit from the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to test drive on US roads. Nuro will be testing its second generation of autonomous delivery vans called R2 in Houston, Texas.
This is the first time that a company was exempted from a rule requiring vehicles to have controls for human operators as most of the rules for testing vehicles require features that allow a driver to safely take control of them.
According to US transport secretary Elaine Chao, these requirements “no longer make sense” as given that the vehicle’s top speed is capped at 25 miles per hour.
The DoT will be implementing greater oversight of the testing and will require Nuro to report information about the operation of the R2 and inform the communities where the vehicle will be tested.
Nuro’s co-founder Dave Ferguson wrote a blog post saying the decision of the transportation department was a “milestone for the industry”.
Ferguson said: “Moving forward, we must modernize the existing regulations that never envisioned a vehicle without a driver or occupants, and everyone in the industry must work to ensure self-driving technology is tested and deployed in the safest possible vehicles.”
A similar exemption is being sought by General Motors to test its self-driving Chevy Bolt but the department is yet to announce a decision. However, the Bolt has a higher top speed than Nuro’s R2 vehicle.
The R2 has an egg-shaped frame with two temperature-controlled compartments for deliveries. A recipient needs to input a code and the doors will raise up to reveal the items.
Other features of the self-driving van include radar, thermal imaging and 360-degree cameras to direct its movement.