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US DOT approves Nuro's next-gen driverless delivery vehicle design

The NHTSA signed off on the design, too.

Today, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved a regulatory exemption for Nuro's next-generation self-driving delivery vehicle, R2. The exemption allows Nuro to begin public road testing and to prepare for deliveries to customers' homes.

With this exemption, Nuro can replace mirrors with cameras and other sensors, round the edges of the vehicle so that it takes up less space and replace the windshield with an opaque panel. Nuro will also be able to run the rear view cameras continuously, whereas in passenger vehicles they must be turned off when the vehicle is moving forward to avoid distracting human drivers.

As the company explains, "Federal vehicle standards were written for today's passenger cars and trucks. But at Nuro, we're building something entirely different: a zero-occupant vehicle."

Following public road testing, Nuro plans to begin the first driverless deliveries to customers' homes in Houston, Texas, where it already partners with Walmart and Domino's. (The company has also partnered with Kroger in Arizona.) While Nuro is grateful for the DOT and NHTSA exemption, the company says it hopes this will lead to new design regulations for zero-occupant delivery vehicles, so that companies can advance the technology without requiring exemptions.