Driverless food delivery services have been testing on public streets for some time now. But as of December 23, Nuro is the first to be granted permission to offer a commercial service; it previously gained a permit to test in California in April 2020.
Nuro says its delivery service will begin "soon" and it is currently allowed to operate commercially in the counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara. The company will use its modified Toyota Prius cars at first, but later plans to introduce its custom-built R2 vehicles.
The R2 is specifically designed to carry groceries, including chilled fresh food, on public streets without a driver – indeed, there are no seats and no conventional driving controls at all.
Nuro says it will be operating its food delivery service with "an established partner," which is likely to be a grocery or supermarket chain or an existing food delivery service.
The company said: "We have extensively tested our self-driving technology and built a track record of safe operations over the past four years, including two successful commercial deployments in other states and driverless testing with R2 in the Bay Area communities where we plan to deploy."
The green light has come at an important time, as with Covid-19 cases on the rise in California services like Nuro can offer automated, zero-contact delivery services of food and other essentials. The service is likely to be hugely valuable to those having to self-isolate or who are wary of visiting grocery stores during the pandemic.
Looking to a future beyond Covid-19, Nuro says: "A parent in Mountain View will be able to get the week's groceries delivered, without bundling the family into a car. A grandmother in East Palo Alto will gain access to affordable home delivery of everyday necessities."