The first self-driving vehicle engineered without basic human controls such as pedals, steering wheels or side-view mirrors has been given permission to test on US roads.


Nuro, the mastermind behind the design, makes autonomous delivery vans.


The vehicle is Nuro’s second generation of its vehicles, which it is naming R2 and will be tested in Houston, Texas.


This is the first exception to a rule requiring vehicles to have controls for human operatives.


Most of the rules for scanning vehicles need features that permit a driver to take control of them safely.


But in an announcement, the US transport secretary Elaine Chao said given that the vehicle’s highest speed is capped at 25mph, these necessities “no longer make sense”.


The Department of Transportation (DoT) will also be imposing greater oversight of the testing.


It will oblige Nuro to report info about the operation of the R2 and reach out to the groups where the vehicle will be tested.


In a blog post, Nuro’s co-founder Dave Ferguson said the verdict was a “milestone for the industry”.


“Moving forward, we must update the existing regulations that never intended a vehicle without a driver or occupants, and everyone in the industry must work to make sure self-driving technology is tested and installed in the safest possible vehicles,” he wrote.


General Motors has also asked for an exemption to test its self-driving Chevy Bolt.


DoT has still not announced its decision for the firm’s request. Though, the Bolt does have a higher top speed than Nuro’s R2 vehicle.



New design

Nuro’s vehicles are aimed to operate without a driver or passengers in them.


In its R2 design, the company removed the windscreens and side view mirrors.


It will also have the rear view camera running at all times. This is not allowed without an exemption from the DoT, as the camera could divert human drivers.


The car has an egg-shaped frame that is smaller than most cars in the US. It also has two temperature-controlled sections for deliveries. Doors elevate to reveal the items after the recipient has entered a code.


The R2 uses thermal imaging, radar and 360-degree cameras to direct its movement.


Nuro has announced the R2 will distribute pizza for Domino’s Pizza, rations from supermarket chain Kroger and goods for Walmart, through its Huston trial.


During the testing of its first R1 design, the company made deliveries for Kroger in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Two ex-Google engineers founded Nuro and it has financing from Japanese firm Softbank.