NHTSA Grants Low-Speed Driverless Delivery Vehicle Safety Exemption to Test Up to 5000 Vehicles on Public Roads

Nuro plans to begin public testing in Houston, Texas within weeks.
NHTSA announced February 6 that it granted Nuro’s request for a temporary exemption from some low-speed vehicle standard requirements. The exemption will allow the company to deploy up to 5,000 of its 2nd generation low-speed, occupantless electric delivery vehicle, the “R2.” Unlike a conventional low-speed vehicle, the R2 is designed to have no human occupant and operates exclusively using an automated driving system.

“Since this is a low-speed self-driving delivery vehicle, certain features that the Department traditionally required – such as mirrors and a windshield for vehicles carrying drivers – no longer make sense,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
In comparison to Nuro’s previously deployed compliant vehicle, the R2 includes the same automated driving system, but would no longer include certain features that are unnecessary for an occupantless vehicle, including mirrors and a windshield.
NHTSA will closely monitor Nuro’s operations during and after the two-year exemption period. Nuro intends to operate these vehicles as part of a local delivery service for restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses.
“NHTSA is dedicated to facilitating the safe testing and deployment of advanced vehicle technologies, including innovative vehicle designs, which hold great promise for future safety improvements. As always, we will not hesitate to use defect authority to protect public safety as necessary,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens.
Since the R2 is expected to rely on the same automated driving system as its earlier compliant vehicle, NHTSA believes this exemption will not lower the safety of the R2. Given the R2’s unique and novel design, though, NHTSA has determined that it would be in the public interest to maintain greater oversight of the R2 than typical for an exempt vehicle. The exemption has been conditioned on a set of terms including mandatory reporting of information about the operation of the R2 (including the automated driving system), and required outreach to the communities where the R2 will be deployed.
In a blog post, Dave Ferguson, Co-Founder of Nuro, said it has partnered with Roush, a full-service product development supplier based in Michigan, to design and assemble the vehicles in the United States. It has developed a more durable custom vehicle body, enabling us to handle inclement weather.