The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued its first autonomous vehicle deployment permit to Nuro, a Mountain View-based technology company, bringing the state much closer to driverless delivery services of food, groceries and other goods.
The new permit issued Dec. 23 will allow Nuro to operate its autonomous vehicles for commercial purposes and soon make deliveries to the public — a service that seems particularly timely during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Over the past few years, we've worked diligently with the DMV to secure the necessary regulatory permits to help bring our self-driving delivery service to California," Aidan Ali-Sullivan, Nuro's regional lead of public policy and government relations, said in a statement. "We appreciate the work they put into this review process and look forward to bringing Nuro's self-driving delivery service to our fellow neighbors in California."
In April, the company was issued a testing permit, which limited Nuro to testing its autonomous vehicles in select cities throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. It was the second technology company focused on autonomous vehicles to receive the permit from the state, alongside Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo.
During that time, Nuro had also deployed some of its custom-designed, electric autonomous vehicles, dubbed the R2, to deliver essential goods to health care workers and patients being treated at a temporary hospital set up in Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena.
With the new deployment permit from the DMV, Nuro can now commercialize and profit off its delivery service to local residents.
Some of the same restrictions of the testing permit still apply. Vehicles will only be allowed on certain streets within Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including in Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Woodside. Also, the vehicles are only allowed to operate in "fair weather conditions on streets with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph," according to a statement released by the DMV.
The company said in a press release that it will begin its first deployment in the new year with autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles and later introduce its R2 vehicles.
Though a robot food delivery service in Silicon Valley is not entirely novel — Starship Technologies had previously deployed their six-wheeled cube robots in Redwood City and Mountain View — Nuro hopes to go beyond small takeout with its larger vehicles, allowing the company to deliver groceries, larger meals such as pizza and, considering the ongoing health crisis, medicine.
"Services like Nuro's will provide contactless access to goods in our communities," said David Estrada, chief legal and policy officer at Nuro. "A parent in Mountain View will be able to get the week's groceries delivered, without bundling the family into the car. A grandmother in East Palo Alto will gain access to affordable home delivery of everyday necessities."