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Driverless Robot Vehicles Become COVID-19 Essential 

 April 23, 2020

By  Lexi Braicovich

Self-driving cars were just starting to make their debut when the pandemic played a factor in what their role could be. The first idea was to use self-driving cars to help deliver food and good so people can stay home and keep themselves safe.

But then came along a Silicon Valley startup named Nuro, who is using their small robotic delivery vehicles to haul critical supplies for medical staff and patients to two temporary facilities in California.

Nuro is making contact-free deliveries using its unmanned R2 vehicles to doctors and nurses who are working at defacto hospitals. These hospitals have been set up at a former NBA area in Sacramento and a multipurpose center in San Mateo. Nuro’s chief policy and legal officer, David Estrada, said these electric vehicles are about half the size of a normal car and are designed only to deliver goods. These windowless vehicles have no seating or internal driving controls for humans.

Supplies that these cars are carrying include test diagnostic kits, pharmaceuticals, food, water, and office supplies. Workers can put materials in and out of cars with no physical contact. This program only includes a handful of cars but could be expanded if needed.

Before COVID-19, these low-speed cars were used in residential and suburban areas for groceries and household items, not trying to follow the trend of a robotaxi service. But now, they are rethinking what their cars are capable of.

News Break

Nuro co-founder, Dave Ferguson, said, “we thought hard about how (and whether) we could contribute with our technology. And we realized that we could potentially use our R2 unmanned vehicles to provide truly contactless delivery of goods where we remove any possible interaction between a driver dropping off goods and a person picking them up […] we can help ensure healthcare workers have supplies they need at hand, saving them time while also helping foster the safety and health of both patients and staff.”

California gave Nuro permission to operate its R2 vehicles on public roads in two San Francisco Bay Area communities. Designed and built with Roush Enterprises has a 360-degree vision system to look out for vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and road conditions.

The mission of Nuro is to speed up the benefits of robotics for everyday life and have it be a positive contribution to the world. Ferguson said, “we know robotics aren’t going to solve the crisis. People are. Heroes are.”

Read the full article from Forbes, here!

Lexi Braicovich


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