Nuro’s driverless delivery vehicles just got another important approval. California’s DMV has given Nuro a permit to test completely self-driving couriers in specific parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including Silicon Valley mainstays like Mountain View, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. The company plans to use this for free deliveries to “select” customers in the Mountain View area, with ultimate plans for a full-fledged delivery service that would operate state-wide.
The startup already had permission to test self-driving vehicles on California roads since 2017, but only with a backup driver in place. Truly driver-free deliveries have already taken place in other states, if typically as test programs.
This represents a coup for Nuro, which is only the second company (after Waymo) to get California’s permission for fully driverless tests. However, it also comes at an unfortunate time. While self-driving delivery vehicles sound ideal for the COVID-19 pandemic, when many would much rather have food delivered than take risks at the grocery store, Nuro can’t really start testing until the state gives the all clear. Right now, it can only really engage in “logistical planning” and twiddle its thumbs until it’s safe enough for employees to work together.