When we last looked at Nuro, the developers of an autonomous electric delivery vehicle, they were on their second-generation R2. To refresh your memory, it was essentially a diminutive car designed to carry goods, not people, and Dominos successfully used them to deliver pizzas in a pilot program in Texas. The hope is that fleets of these zero-emission* Nuros will reduce car trips to supermarkets and eateries.
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Now Nuro’s developed their third generation vehicle with improved safety measures, including self-cleaning sensors and external airbags for pedestrians, “optimized to reduce the force of impact and number of injuries in the event of collision.”
The idea of external airbags is a good one that has been around for a while; in 2017’s “Inside Auto Design: How People Getting Hit By Cars Has Changed the Shape of Cars,” we explained the dynamics of car-into-human crashes and showed you an external airbag concept by Volvo.
And in 2019, we looked at German auto supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG’s external airbags, though those were designed to limit damage in car-to-car crashes.
For the record, Nuro doesn’t anticipate their vehicles ever crashing into people, noting that their small, lightweight ‘bots can slam on their brakes in a way that no people-carrying vehicle could. The airbags are a just-in-case kind of thing, and jives with the company’s mission to create a friendly vehicle that they hope will “become a beloved member of the community.”
The photos don’t do a good job of providing scale; the video below gives you a better sense of how tiny (and yes, friendly-looking) the third-gen Nuro is.
*Regarding the zero-emission claim: Nuro says that “in this new vehicle, we’re using 100% renewable electricity from wind farms in Texas to power our fleet and to reduce our overall carbon footprint.”