COVID-19 ISO Insights

California Allows Nuro to Test AV Delivery Without a Driver

April 20, 2020

By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU

The World Economic Forum (WEF) notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other government agencies around the world, have been advocating for social distancing to help prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The UK issued a guidance for social distancing in the workplace including for those in the delivery sector, basically suggesting that no contact be made between the driver and the customer: what better way to avoid this situation than not to have a driver at all?

In order to assist U.S. companies that reportedly are struggling to deliver groceries, household goods, and more to consumers while avoiding contact, Reuters has reported that Nuro, a robotics company that includes offerings with driverless vehicles, has received authorization from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to test two autonomous delivery vehicles in nine cities, including in the counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo, Atherton, East Palo Alto, and Los Altos.

Per Reuters, this permit enables Nuro to “conduct deliveries with its local retail partners”, which reportedly have included Walmart and Domino’s Pizza.

Prior to this permit, Nuro had reportedly received a key exemption from , the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which would allow driverless Nuro vehicles to not be required to comply with existing NHTSA federal safety standards that apply to vehicles driven by humans.

Among the standard equipment Nuro vehicles do not have are a steering wheel and brake pedals. They are reportedly categorized as “low speed vehicles” under federal standards because they do not exceed 25 MPH.

We recently posted how market forces emerging from COVID-19 may accelerate technologies, such as driverless cars, that have advanced but have not established a niche in contemporary society. If this venture from Nuro goes smoothly, perhaps we may see driverless vehicles used for deliveries more often.

Subsequent to the COVID-19 outbreak, demographic trends could help solidify the use of driverless vehicles in urban regions as well. By 2030, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), about 60% of the world's population is expected to reside in urban areas, in which “last mile” deliveries are projected to increase by 78%.