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Nuro First to Get AV Exemption for Its Delivery Vehicle

In a decision more than a year in the making, the US Department of Transportation DOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA has granted a request by AV delivery company Nuro for an exemption from some of the rules in the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. [1]

The company will be permitted to produce and deploy as many as 5000 of its R2 electric delivery vehicles for a period of two years. Unlike some delivery vehicles intended for sidewalk environments, Nuro's R2 vehicle is meant for the road. The R2 is 1.1 meters wide and 2.7 meters long and has a front end made to absorb energy in the event of a collision. It has a maximum speed of 40 km/h and a 31-kilowatt-hour battery.

"The vehicles that we're proposing can really be a net contributor to safety in a way that's more acceptable than the notion of, say, a very large, heavy minivan," says David Estrada, Nuro's chief legal and policy officer. "That can cause a lot more damage to those outside the van, and it has to keep its occupants safe inside. It's a completely different safety profile."

The exemption comes with certain conditions. Terms include mandatory reporting of data about R2's autonomous-driving systems, outreach to communities where the vehicles will be deployed and requirements that any cybersecurity breach result in an immediate grounding of the fleet.


Personal comments

In terms of size and weight (and cargo capacity), the Nuro R2 sits in-between the Einride pod, aimed at heavier logistics, and the Starship-type of sidewalk delivery robots. The fact that the R2 operates on roads while being smaller and lighter than most other vehicles, could prove successful when it comes to early deployment. The risk of causing damages will be smaller and the operations could end up being more easily integrated into existing delivery channels. However, there are still many questions regarding end-to-end deliveries, and any viable service will most probably have to be carefully tailored around the characteristics and limitations of the vehicles.


Written by Victor Malmsten Lundgren, RISE.



1. 2020-02-10. Milestone in driverless delivery