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Driverless delivery vehicles are now allowed on California streets

Jack Stewart Jan 17, 2020
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A Nuro delivery bot drops off groceries. Courtesy of Nuro

Driverless delivery vehicles are now allowed on California streets

Jack Stewart Jan 17, 2020
A Nuro delivery bot drops off groceries. Courtesy of Nuro
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As of today, California is officially allowing a broader range of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

That state’s DMV has new regulations to allow light-duty, driverless delivery vehicles. That could include small delivery bots, dropping off everything from pizza to groceries.

One company that is looking forward to applying for a permit is Nuro, a California-based robotics company, which has built a cute-looking delivery bot. It’s about the size of a golf cart, all electric, with headlights that look like eyes. 

The Nuro delivery vehicle will be allowed on California’s roads. (Courtesy Nuro)

The company says there are fewer safety concerns with small, low-speed vehicles like these than with passenger-carrying cars. It is already running trials in Houston, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona, but wants to start in the Golden State, too.

California, as the most populous state, is the one where we can serve the most people, and where business can grow, potentially, the most rapidly,” said David Estrada, chief legal and policy officer at Nuro.

Nuro is just one company among many looking at driverless delivery vehicles that range from the size of suitcases to small cars. Human labor is a large part of the expense of deliveries for companies, and they’re looking for ways to cut that.

“There are strong incentives to test out autonomous vehicles where they don’t have that labor cost,” said Anne Goodchild, founding director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington.

California’s new rules still block large vehicles, meaning companies testing driverless big rigs will have to stick to Arizona and other more permissive states.

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