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California’s first driverless delivery service vehicle by Nuro.

California has given the go-ahead for a commercial driverless delivery service for the first time. Robotics start-up Nuro plans to start its driverless delivery operations as early as next year.

It previously tested its R2 vehicles in the state in April, but the permit will let it charge people for its service. The firm’s vehicles will be limited to 35mph (56km/h), and will be restricted to operating in “fair weather” conditions.

“Issuing the first deployment permit is a significant milestone in the evolution of autonomous vehicles in California,” said California Department of Motor Vehicles director Steve Gordon. Nuro was founded by two former Google engineers and has funding from Japanese firm Softbank.

The vehicle has an egg-shaped frame that is smaller than most cars in the US. It also has two temperature-controlled compartments for deliveries. Doors raise up to reveal the items once a code has been entered by the recipient.

In October, driverless taxis began operating in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of Google’s Waymo service. A similar service, backed by the online tech and retail giant Alibaba, is currently being trialled in China’s biggest city, Shanghai.

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