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Nuro, the self-driving startup, received a permit yesterday that allows the company to begin testing its driverless delivery vehicles on Californian roads. Image Credit: Nuro

Self-driving startup company Nuro has been approved to test its autonomous delivery vehicles on public roads in California by the state’s DMV. The company, founded by two ex-Google engineers, is the second to receive a driverless permit there.

This development comes at a time where demand is growing for delivery services due to the coronavirus temporarily shutting down life as we know it. The health crisis has highlighted the potential benefits of autonomous technology.

The permit allows two of the company’s R2 prototypes to test in nine California cities and although there are several companies which are testing their autonomous vehicles in the state, Nuro has become only the second given the right to test its vehicles without a human on board. Waymo was the first to receive a fully driverless permit in California.

“The safety of the motoring public is the DMV’s top priority, and we do not give out these permits lightly,” Steve Gordon, director of the DMV, said in a written statement.

The R2 is smaller than a conventional light-duty vehicle and has a maximum speed of 55kph. It has no room for occupants and instead has two compartments tailor-made for hauling groceries or other goods.

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The R2 is a lightweight, narrow, electric vehicle that is built from the ground up to be completely autonomous. Image Credit: Nuro

“Admittedly, while we have always believed that small self-driving delivery vehicles would improve road safety and provide valuable convenience to consumers, we did not foresee our service helping to keep Americans safe from contagion,” said David Estrada, Nuro’s chief legal and policy officer. “But the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services.”