Autonomous Company Nuro Just Got Federal Approval To Deliver Your Groceries

Illustration for article titled Autonomous Company Nuro Just Got Federal Approval To Deliver Your Groceries
Photo: Nuro

The first autonomous car to achieve federal regulation approval could soon be hitting the streets of a city near you. And they might just be delivering your groceries. Self-driving robot startup Nuro gets to bypass safety standards to start taking to the streets.


This is honestly pretty big, and we’ll let Bloomberg give you a brief rundown as to why that is:

The company, founded by ex-Alphabet Inc. employees and backed by SoftBank Vision Fund, won an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday that allows it to deploy a car without side mirrors, rear visibility, and a glazed windshield. This relieves the company of complying with certain historic Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the rules specifying the design, construction, and performance of cars. Those rules currently restrict self-driving cars without traditional design elements, such as steering wheels or pedals, from driving on the road for commercial purposes.

That’s a huge step forward! Most cars containing autonomous features aren’t actually fully autonomous, meaning that there’s still a human driver behind the wheel taking care of all the controls, with the car just easing the burden. But Nuro’s machines are actually autonomous. And this federal decision means we’re likely to start seeing plenty more autonomous startups hitting the roads for testing and development.

But don’t get too excited yet. There are still limitations here. Nuro’s vehicles don’t transport people, and their maximum speed is a mere 25 miles per hour. This is literally just a glorified delivery service, and the company is doing all it can to minimize all possible risk. As long as the autonomous vehicle is going slow and not carrying passengers, there’s no reason to keep it off the road.

It’s been a decision a long time in the making. Nuro petitioned the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the exemption that would allow it to hit the road back in October 2018 and only just now received a definitive answer.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.



I really, really want this technology to succeed. This tech has the capability to fundamentally change how we receive our goods at home and at work. I place way more trust in this firm than I could in Uber. However, I don’t want to see any headlines like this.

Even at 25 mph a child or vulnerable adult could be seriously injured or killed. I don’t want any companies using public streets as proving grounds.