US agency approves vehicle designed not to have human driver

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In this long exposure photo cars drive on a highway in Frankfurt, Germany, early Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

DETROIT (AP) — For the first time, the U.S. government’s highway safety agency has approved a company’s request to deploy a self-driving vehicle that doesn’t meet federal safety standards for human-driven cars and trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration granted temporary approval for Silicon Valley robotics company Nuro to run a low-speed autonomous delivery vehicle, without side and rear-view mirrors and other safety provisions required of vehicles driven by humans. Also not on the safety feature list; windshield wipers, steering wheels or brake pedals.

The vehicles can controled remotely by a human operator, if needed.

In December Nuro announced plans to use its low-speed shuttles, called “R2,” in partnership with Walmart to deliver groceries to customers in Houston. The service was to start early this year and use the shuttles as well as automated Toyota Prius hybrid cars.

The small Nuro vehicles don’t have a driver compartment, according to the agency. They’ll be used to deliver goods for restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses.

Under the temporary approval, Nuro will have to make real-time safety reports to the agency. Nuro also will have to hold regular meetings with the agency and reach out to the community in areas where the vehicles will travel.

“NHTSA is committed to working with industry and key stakeholders to create space for innovation while prioritizing safety,” the agency said in a prepared statement Thursday.

The agency will use enforcement powers if it finds any evidence of an unreasonable risk to safety, the statement said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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