SoftBank-Backed Nuro Gets OK for Driverless Delivery Tests in California

A Nuro delivery vehicle completes training routes in Texas in November 2019.
A Nuro delivery vehicle completes training routes in Texas in November 2019. (Annie Mulligan for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Nuro Inc. has won permission to test driverless, low-speed delivery vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming the second company allowed to operate on public roads without a driver.

The startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp. received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on April 7, after the agency granted a driverless testing permit to Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit. More than 60 other companies hold permits from the state to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services,” David Estrada, Nuro’s chief policy officer, said in a blog post. “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.”

The permit allows Nuro to test two of its purpose-built, driverless delivery vehicles — dubbed the R2 — in parts of nine Silicon Valley cities on roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less, according to the agency. The vehicles are designed to go no faster than 25 miles per hour.

The testing permit also will allow the company to make deliveries for local businesses, Estrada said.

“The safety of the motoring public is the DMV’s top priority, and we do not give out these permits lightly,” California DMV Director Steve Gordon said in a statement. “Nuro has met the DMV’s requirements to receive this permit to test their driverless delivery vehicles on California’s public roads.”

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