Autonomous van will begin deliveries in the Houston metro area in the 'coming weeks'.
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Nuro, an autonomous delivery startup, has been granted permission by the US National Highway Transport Safety Authority (NHTSA) to operate its completely driverless delivery vans for the coming two years.

Other self-driving vehicles allowed on public roads in the US still feature a steering wheel and pedals, and usually have a human sitting in the driver's seat monitoring operation, ready to step in if the car does something unusual and enters a situation it wasn't designed for.

Thanks to a temporary exemption from some of the country's low-speed vehicle requires, the company can deploy up to 5000 R2 delivery vans during the test period.

NHTSA says it "will closely monitor Nuro’s operations during and after that time" with Nuro required to submit mandatory reports about the R2 and its autonomous driving functions. It is also required to engage with communities where it will test the vehicle.

"Since this is a low-speed self-driving delivery vehicle, certain features that the Department traditionally required – such as mirrors and a windshield for vehicles carrying drivers – no longer make sense,” said Elaine Chao, the US secretary of transportation, said in a prepared statement.

Last year the company said it was hoping to set up a delivery service utilising the R2 for Domino's Pizza in the Houston metro area.

Nuro says it intends to begin servicing the Houston area with a number of suppliers in the "coming weeks".

The R2 is the second generation of Nuro's self-driving delivery vehicle. The "zero occupant" van has a top speed of 40km/h, and a 31kWh battery for an "all day operation".

Measuring just 2.74m long, 1.1m wide and 1.86m tall, the R2 is significantly smaller than a regular car or van, and has a payload capacity of 190kg.

It is developed and produced in conjunction with Roush, an engineering firm best known for its Performance arm which modifies Ford cars.

According to the company, the exemption means the R2 won't need to turn off its rear cameras, which it says was "part of a rule meant to avoid distracting human drivers".

The R2 will also replace its mirrors with extra cameras and sensors, and the windscreen will be replaced by a "specially designed panel... that absorbs energy, better protecting pedestrians"