“It could still be several years before you ride in a fully autonomous car with no human backup on public roads. Your groceries, however, can take that ride today.
That is as long as you live in the Scottsdale area and shop at Fry’s. Autonomous delivery startup Nuro has kicked off a pilot project in Arizona by teaming up with grocery Kroger. Just in time for Christmas, Nuro’s compact driverless R1 “pods” are hitting the roads to save locals from yet another run to the store during the annual holiday craziness.
The R1 can handle two deliveries at the same time. Its cargo areas are surprisingly spacious given the R1’s overall size. Each one can hold several bags of groceries, stacks of pizzas, or a luncheon spread that can feed the entire office.
Like some of the other, smaller delivery drones that are rolling around streets and sidewalks, customers gain access to their orders by entering a code on a keypad. When the R1 is empty it returns to the store to recharge and reload.
The compact R1 isn’t built for long-range deliveries that require a heavier foot. It’s capped at just 25MPH. Nuro says that gives the pod more time to react to the unexpected and helps minimize the risk of accidents.
Its size helps, too. The R1 only occupies about half a lane. Even if a pedestrian rushes out from between cars parked by a curb there’s still almost a one-meter buffer between the person and the pod. That allows plenty of time to put on the brakes and stop or to take evasive action.
Among those evasive actions: self-sacrifice. If the only way to avoid a pod-human collision is for the R1 to damage itself (and possibly the cargo it’s carrying), it’ll do just that.”