Silicon Valley startup Nuro.ai raised $92 million to create a working prototype of its ‘R1’ vehicle, which the company says will never seat a human inside. The low-speed car is fitted with panels in its side that open via an app to reveal its cargo, and Nuro claims it could have a road-legal fleet ready by 2022.
The smartphone app will give a code that pops open the vehicle’s side hatches, so customers can fetch their items. It will also let customers know when the vehicle is nearby, so people know when to head outside for collection.
Nuro said it is even considering using facial-recognition cameras as part of its delivery process.
Based in Los Angeles, the firm has already received a testing permit from the California DMV and plans to start public road trials later this year. The R1 is around the height of a saloon but only half as wide, stretching about as long as a Smart car to give it a boxed shape. Its skinny size gives it a 3 to 4-foot (90-120cm) ‘buffer’ so other vehicles and pedestrians can maneuver safely around it, according to Nuro. The R1 is a ‘Level Four’ fully autonomous vehicle, meaning it does not require human instruction for most situations, relying instead on high-definition mapping.
It navigates the roads using self-driving sensors including cameras, radars, and a spinning ‘lidar’ unit on its roof.
Founded by ex-Google engineers Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, the software for the vehicle was built from scratch over the past year-and-a-half.