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DOT Grants Nuro the First Driverless Car Exemption in the US

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For the past couple of years, autonomous vehicle startup Nuro has partnered with Kroger to test out self-driving delivery vehicles in Arizona and Texas. It recently claimed the first Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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About the exemption

self driving car animation
The exemption will enable Nuro vehicles to legally travel on public roads as the company continues to fine-tune their design
Photo: Pixabay

The FMVSS mandates that autonomous vehicles have basic human controls like pedals, steering wheels, side view mirrors, etc. The exemption from FMVSS means that Nuro can now legally produce and test its driverless vehicles on public roads, according to The Verge.

Nuro’s chief legal officer, David Estrada, commented on what the exemption means from the DOT’s standpoint. “In order for them to grant this exemption, [they must] conclude that the vehicle itself is at least as safe as one that would be required to meet the standards.” So, in the case of Nuro’s R2 driverless vehicle, the DOT has confirmed this model is at least as safe as if it did have basic safety equipment like a backup camera, side mirrors, and a transparent windshield.

Industry implications

Interestingly enough, Nuro hasn’t been the only manufacturer that has attempted to secure an FMVSS exemption. GM is still waiting on the DOT to respond to their petition to mass-produce a fleet of Chevy Bolt AVs. Per The Verge, one key disadvantage that GM has is that the AVs it wants to legalize on public roads travel over 25 mph. That’s significantly faster and more hazardous than the slower Nuro models.

Like with many federal exemptions, though, this one does come with a caveat. Nuro must reach out to the communities where it will deploy the R2. The DOT also requires the company to report information about the operation of these vehicles. Though, it seems like a small price to pay for beating other AV companies in securing the DOT’s first FMVSS exemption.

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