For the first time ever, the federal government has approved a waiver which will allow a fully autonomous and fully driverless vehicle to operate on public roads. The vehicle has been approved to operate without standard safety measures like steering wheels and brake pedals. There’s not even a place for a driver to sit.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has approved a waiver request from robotics company Nuro. The Silicon Valley company will be allowed to put their “R2” delivery vehicle on public roads without meeting some of the 75 auto safety standards that are currently required by the NHTSA.
Speaking about the Nuro waiver request, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao commented that “certain features that the department traditionally required — such as mirrors and windshield for vehicles carrying drivers — no longer make sense.”
Nuro’s “R2” is a vehicle designed to deliver groceries and other household items directly to people’s homes. Once a customer inputs a code verifying their identity, one of the gull-wing doors swings open and they can remove their items from a climate-controlled compartment located where passengers and a driver might have been in a normal car.
It uses lasers, cameras, and radar sensors common in autonomous vehicle technology to navigate. And even though it operates on public roads with the flow of traffic, it is currently required to travel under 25 miles per hour.
The “R2” will be rolled out first in Houston, TX. Walmart and Domino’s pizza have already announced plans to partner with Nuro for deliveries. NHTSA has approved Nuro to deploy up to 5,000 “R2” vehicles over the next two years.