In 2010, Google's autonomous vehicle project placed self-driving cars on Bay Area streets and freeways, but practical applications were thought to be at least a decade away.
The futurists were right on schedule: In 2020, Mountain View-based Nuro was testing its second-generation R2 robotic vehicle, the first to earn a federal exemption to operate an autonomous vehicle.
But before Nuro could even consider reaching product-market fit, its founders had to overcome technological challenges, win over regulators and strike partnerships with a range of consumer-facing companies.
“Neither JZ nor I think of ourselves as classic entrepreneurs or that starting a company is something we had to do in our lives,” says co-founder Dave Ferguson. “It was much more the result of soul searching and trying to figure out what is the biggest possible impact that we could have."
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Across four articles, reporter Mark Harris (The Guardian, Wired, MIT Technology Review) explores Nuro's origins and operations, including the founders' decision to focus on creating autonomous delivery vehicles instead of entering the passenger EV market.
I've lived inside the San Francisco Bay Area bubble for most of my adult life, so it's interesting to see how people in Houston's Woodland Heights neighborhood react to seeing Nuro's R2 delivering pizza and prescriptions on a limited basis.
As one Redditor recently posted in r/houston: "With these self-driving cars, it's only a matter of time before a country song is written about a guy's truck leaving him."
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