The US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved a regulatory exemption for R2, Nuro’s second-generation vehicle. As the first company to be granted approval for a self-driving vehicle exemption, it’s an important milestone for Nuro.
This decision provides regulatory certainty for Nuro to operate its second-generation self-driving vehicle, built to carry packages instead of people. The custom-designed R2 enriches local commerce with last-mile delivery of consumer products, groceries, and hot food from local stores and restaurants. With its specially designed size, weight, pedestrian-protecting front end, operating speed, electric propulsion, and cautious driving habits, R2 is ready to begin service as a socially responsible neighbourhood vehicle that you one trust.
In the coming weeks, R2 will begin public road testing to prepare for its first deliveries to customers’ homes with our partners in Houston, Texas. With this vehicle, we can also bring our service to new cities, so more Americans can benefit from safe, efficient, convenient on-demand deliveries.
With the second-generation vehicle, R2, Nuro wanted to retain its unique design and the key characteristics — including zero-emission propulsion and a magical customer experience — that made R1 a success. It also wanted to extend the vehicle’s lifespan, add more cargo space, and handle more varied conditions at a greater, city-wide scale.
Rather than custom-making each individual vehicle like it had with R1, Nuro partnered with Roush, a full-service product development supplier based in Michigan, to design and assemble high-quality vehicles in the United States. They developed a more durable custom vehicle body, enabling the vehicle to handle inclement weather.
Nuro also updated its sensor array with both supplier-provided and custom, in-house sensors. It added two-thirds more compartment space without increasing vehicle width, and introduced temperature control to help keep food fresh. R2 uses a custom battery solution that nearly doubled the R2 battery size, enabling all day operation.
R2 also features safety innovations designed to keep what’s outside the vehicle safer than what’s inside. To get the most benefit from these innovations, Nuro applied for a regulatory exemption from NHTSA. Federal vehicle standards were written for today’s passenger cars and trucks. But Nuro is building something entirely different: a zero-occupant vehicle. The DOT exemption process is designed to accommodate unforeseen technologies like R2 that can enhance safety.
This decision shows that “exemption” can mean more safety. It allows Nuro to replace the mirrors relied on by human drivers with cameras and other sensors. It can round the edges of the vehicle body to take up less road space, and make it safer for those around. In addition, it can remove the windshield meant to let human drivers see out and keep passengers in — instead using a specially designed panel at the vehicle’s front that absorbs energy, better protecting pedestrians. And it won’t have to ever turn off the rearview cameras that help R2 see (part of a rule meant to avoid distracting human drivers), providing a constant 360-degree view with no blind spots.
This exemption comes after a long process that demonstrated the safety of Nuro’s vehicle and DOT’s commitment to public safety. It follows three years of discussion with the agency, detailed submissions of information on Nuro’s technology, and supportive comments from leaders in the communities where Nuro operates, its long-standing partners, and fellow citizens concerned about road safety. DOT has shown that safety and innovation can advance together, and that they will act to address regulations that stand in the way.
Nuro will begin public road testing with R2 in Houston in the coming weeks. This will provide additional valuable real-world data on how people react to our delivery vehicles. The launch of R2 marks a new phase for Nuro, as it works towards deploying our delivery services at city scale in Houston with multiple partners.