Nuro's R2 vehicle has been granted the NHTSA's first regulatory exemption for a custom self-driving car

Self-driving cars: Nuro is a well-known entity in the autonomous vehicle industry. It’s partnered up with companies like Kroger and Dominos in the past to offer driverless food and grocery delivery services via its “R1” generation of vehicles. Now, Nuro has unveiled its R2 vehicle model, designed from the ground up to be safer and more accommodating to other drivers on the road.

The Nuro R2 features several improvements over its predecessor, including a more durable body designed to help the vehicle handle “inclement weather,” updated sensors, more storage space, better internal temperature control, and a few other important changes that we’ll get to in a moment.

First, a quick note about a key difference in the way the vehicles are being produced — instead of handling design and development in-house, Nuro is partnering up with Roush, a “full-service” product development supplier. Roush’s primary goal is to help Nuro produce the R2 at scale, using their own assembly expertise.

Nuro's R2 vehicle has been granted the NHTSA's first regulatory exemption for a custom self-driving car 1

Returning to the other tweaks mentioned earlier, the Nuro R2 houses multiple “safety innovations” that wouldn’t have been possible without some help from the NHTSA. The organization, which aids in the regulation of the self-driving car industry, granted Nuro a US-first “regulatory exemption” for the vehicle.

This exemption allows the R2 to operate without some of the normal requirements attached to traditional vehicles. For example, thanks to the NHTSA’s decision, the R2 does not have (or need) a windshield, nor does it house any side mirrors. Further, its rear camera can stay enabled at all times, even when the vehicle is moving forward.

Nuro's R2 vehicle has been granted the NHTSA's first regulatory exemption for a custom self-driving car 2

Typically, the NHTSA requires rear cameras to be shut off when a vehicle isn’t backing up, to prevent its human driver from becoming distracted. Since the R2 does not have a human driver and thus cannot be distracted, there’s no need for that rule to apply here.

Obviously, Nuro is pleased that it was able to obtain these exemptions, but the company recognizes that it’s not an ideal way to solve the problem. The transportation industry as a whole is changing, and Nuro hopes that core regulations will adapt outright, instead of simply bending to accommodate the occasional innovative vehicle.

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