California has given the go-ahead for a commercial delivery service with self-driving vehicles. Robotics start-up Nuro plans to start deliveries as early as next year, without a driver.
Nuro tested its so-called R2 vehicles as early as April this year in the state of California. The new licence now also enables the company to turn it into a real commercial activity, although there are quite a few restrictions: for example, the speed of the vehicles will be limited to some 56 km/h and they may only be used in favourable weather conditions, reports the BBC.
Nuro was founded by two former Google engineers and is financed by the Japanese multinational Softbank, which focuses, among other things, on telecommunications and robotics. The autonomous vehicles use radar, heat cameras and 360-degree cameras to navigate.
The R2 has an egg-shaped frame that is smaller than most cars in the United States. There are also two temperature-controlled compartments inside the vehicle for deliveries. Doors open after the receiver has entered a code.
According to transport expert Professor David Bailey of the University of Birmingham, safety remains a concern. In view of the above-mentioned restrictions imposed on R2, he speaks of an essentially limited test, but still an important step towards a driverless future.
Walmart recently announced that it will start with self-driving cars in two American states next year. The supermarket chain is collaborating with technology supplier Gatik to this end. Alibaba also has clear plans to start deliveries without a driver in 2021.