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Nuro will start self-driving delivery vehicle services in California

The small driverless vehicles could help deliver goods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nuro R2 in California
California, meet Nuro.

Californians will soon see an odd, new vehicle motoring around local roads after the state cleared Nuro to test its self-driving delivery car in the state, the company announced on Tuesday.

Crucially, it could be a big step to show Nuro's strengths as the company said it can deliver groceries and supplies to areas stricken by the coronavirus pandemic. The R2 is a small delivery vehicle that operates without a human driver and has already carried out pilot grocery delivery programs with Kroger and expanded to other retail partners in Texas.

The state permit will allow Nuro to test two of its R2 driverless pods in nine cities across the state, and Nuro Chief Legal and Policy Officer David Estrada told the outlet the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 diseases, has "expedited the public need for contactless delivery services."

"Our R2 fleet is custom-designed to change the very nature of driving, and the movement of goods, by allowing people to remain safely at home while their groceries, medicines, and packages, are brought to them," Estrada added in the announcement.

Nuro's had a pretty stellar year when it comes to regulatory approval of its R2 delivery pod. The US Department of Transportation in February gave the company an exemption to operate the self-driving car on US roads without a human driver. Nuro became the first company in the US to receive this waiver. It's only the second company in California to receive the permit that allows no human driver within the self-driving vehicle.

While Nuro works to get delivery services off the ground with retail partners, the next step will be for the company to apply for full statewide deployment to undertake commercial services. Truly, it could be a game changer when it comes to contactless delivery.

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First published April 8.