Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, who formerly worked as Lead Engineers at Google, have founded Nuro. The focus of their new company isn’t on reinventing public and large-cargo transportation, but on low-speed, local & last-mile deliveries or groceries, take-out orders (via Seamless) and laundry. Nuro’s goal is to automate these services to shoulder the quick increase in last-minute deliveries, while giving local businesses a boost to compete with Amazon (mainly their Prime Now service).
Also, unlike most other autonomous driving services that repurposes existing vehicles, Nuro engineers built the Nuro R1 prototype from scratch. The vehicle resembles a large lunchbox/toaster on wheels, which includes a rooftop sensor featuring LIDAR, cameras and radars, feature NO traditional vehicle controls steering wheels, seats, foot pedals, gear shifters, etc. People receiving deliveries, Nuro envisions, will be informed when the vehicle arrives to their destination and are given a code that once enters opens a side hatch containing thier package. Nuro even hopes to utilize face-recognition technology to further verify the identity of customers to prevent the stealing of other people’s deliveries.
Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson stated:
“We’ve built the full software stack from scratch. There are a lot of components that are shared with general self-driving, and some things that are a bit different. We’ve been able to architecture this thing from scratch, geared toward this passenger-less, goods-only transportation. Even if you have the perfect self-driving vehicle, if someone pops out between two parked cars and it’s within your stopping distance, you can’t prevent that accident. Whereas if you have a vehicle that’s half the width, and you’ve got an extra three or four feet of clearance, you can avoid it… and you have room to maneuver around them. You can better design the vehicle to mitigate the severity of any accident.”