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Self-driving cars, trucks, and shuttles are rolling out of the labs and onto the streets to help deliver groceries, meals, and medical supplies. The COVID-19 crisis has reignited an intense discussion about rapidly deploying driverless cars. Given the need for personalized, contact-free delivery services during a pandemic, such technology solutions seem almost idyllic, however, most of them are still far from mature.
One of the more advanced projects in this field is California-based Nuro, which has become the first company approved to make deliveries in California using an autonomous vehicle. The company plans to begin commercial service as early as next year.
Nuro started testing its fleet on California roads in 2017 and, during the pandemic, has shuttled medical goods to a Sacramento field hospital.
It will first launch a fleet of autonomous Toyota Priuses, then introduce its own low-speed R2 vehicle. The R2 has no pedals, steering wheel, sideview mirrors or room for passengers. It is a ‘Level Four’ fully autonomous vehicle, meaning it does not require human instruction for most situations.
Nuro’s fleet will be restricted to 35mph and can only operate in ‘fair weather’ conditions.
It relies instead on thermal imaging, radar, and 360-degree cameras to ‘see’ the road, though a human operator can still control the vehicle remotely.
To ensure security, customers must enter a special PIN provided to them upon ordering to unlock the vehicle’s vertical hatches and collect their delivery. .