Self-Driving

California self-driving vehicle startup has all eyes on Houston — here's why

Nuro is eyeing Houston as a pathway to success.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

Editor's Note: There are currently no autonomous vehicles for sale in the U.S. Nuro, like Cruise, is marketing self-driving vehicles. Autonomous vehicles, as defined by SAE J3016, can go anywhere at any time whereas self-driving vehicles operate under limited conditions.

Houston — with its sprawl and winding roads broken up across various neighborhoods — is particularly challenging when it comes to self-driving car navigation. And that's exactly why Nuro, a California-based tech startup that's raised over $1 billion in funding, decided to focus on the Bayou City for its self-driving vehicle delivery pilot programs.

"Houston is our first full-scale operations city," Sola Lawal, product operations manager in Houston, tells InnovationMap. "All eyes at Nuro are focused on Houston."

Photo courtesy of Nuro

Last year alone, Nuro launched three pilots in six of Houston's ZIP codes from Bellaire to the Heights. The first of which was a partnership with Kroger in March, followed by the announcement of driverless pizza delivery from Domino's in June. Last month, Nuro announced its latest delivery partner was Walmart.

Lawal explains Houston's appeal to Nuro in a few ways, but the challenging landscape is key. Nuro cars are learning from the narrow, tree-laden streets of West University or the pedestrian-heavy, ditch-lined paths in the Heights.

"There's a ton for us to learn, but it's a great microcosm of the United States in a number of different ways," he says.

In addition to its diversity within its street types, Houston, named the most diverse city in the country, represents an ideal customer base, says Lawal, a Houston native himself. Houstonians are open minded about new experiences.

"If you think and look across Houston, the average commute is over 60 minutes for people to get back and forth," Lawal tells InnovationMap. "As we surveyed across major cities we were interested in, Houston stood out as a place where customers said they don't want go to the grocery store if they don't have to or get in their cars again to pick up their pizza."

The third reason Houston was a great market for Nuro is the amount of regulatory support the state of Texas has — Gov. Greg Abbott announced the launch of the Texas Connected and Autonomous Vehicle task force a year ago — as well as the support at the city level.

"It's been a welcoming environment from the mayor's office down for us to be here," Lawal says.

Since entering the Houston market, Nuro's local operations have grown to over 100 employees. The company still has software operations out of California, and some work being done in Arizona, but the Houston is the largest — and growing as the company seeks new partnerships with more stores with a goal of eliminating errands once and for all.

"The way that we think about this is that this new technology and our mission of accelerating robotics for everyday life, is we will bring the people what they want," Lawal says when asked about what types of stores Nuro is looking to partner with.

Eventually, Lawal says, the plan would be to have every errand be delivery optimized with Nuro technology — from big-box stores like Walmart to your local florist.

"Our goal is to have a platform that retailers can connect to in order to provide easy and inexpensive delivery," he says.

Currently, Nuro's technology is still in learning mode. Nuro's fleet of Prius cars with staff onboard are driving up and down Houston streets mapping and taking notes on a daily basis. The company also has bots, called the R2 fleet, that are designed to be unmanned.

These bots are smaller than normal cars and are completely electric. Rather than being designed to protect passengers inside like traditional automobiles, the R2s are designed to be safe for people outside the vehicle.

"It's a new way of thinking about transportation and what our vehicles can and should do," Lawal says.

2020 is the year of these R2 bots, and some areas can expect to see them in action — specifically focused on Domino's pizza delivery — in just a matter of weeks.

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This story originally appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site, InnovationMap.

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The new Grand Cherokee L is on its way to dealers now.

Stellantis

The all-new three-row Grand Cherokee L was unveiled earlier this year, and features an ultra-premium interior, a load of new tech, and sharp styling that shouts back to Jeep models of the past. Just a few weeks ago, we learned pricing and feature details for the new model, and now Jeep says the vehicle is on its way to dealerships across the country.


Jeep Grand Cherokee L The L is the first three-row Grand Cherokee.Stellantis


In terms of styling, the L's shape has been reworked from previous Grand Cherokee models to be more reminiscent of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The automaker says that the grille has been tilted forward and is now wider for better air flow and a more dramatic appearance. The idea was to make the Grand Cherokee L look rugged, but keep it sleek and technical in the process.

The stretched Grand Cherokee retains the engines that powered its predecessors. That means a 3.6-liter V6 is standard, which delivers 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 5.7-liter V6 is optional, and makes 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or al-wheel drive. Either powertrain option will provide decent towing capability, but the V8 is unsurprisingly more powerful. With a V6 on board, the Grand Cherokee L can tow 6,200 pounds, while V8-powered models can pull 7,200 pounds.


Jeep Grand Cherokee L The L's styling is modern but nostalgic.Stellantis


Inside, Jeep says the L can be equipped with the latest tech and entertainment features. Running the latest Uconnect infotainment software, the Grand Cherokee L will be capable of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and can be had with a head-up display, a rear-seat monitoring camera system, and a 950-watt 19-speaker McIntosh audio system. At the top end of the lineup, the Summit Reserve model gets Palermo quilted leather, open-pore waxed walnut wood, and 21-inch wheels.

Pricing for the L starts at $38,690 after destination, which buys the base Laredo trim. The range-topping Summit Reserve model starts at $61,690 after destination. Dealer deliveries are underway now, supported by almost 5,000 employees at Stellantis' Detroit Assembly Complex.

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The LEGO Speed Champions series is adding two new Dodge models to its lineup.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The new LEGO Speed Champions series is expanding by two. A 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A and Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster are being added to the growing collection. They are the first purple vehicle and first Top Fuel Dragster in the Speed Champion series.

"Owning, or aspiring to own, a Dodge muscle car is as much about the lifestyle of joining the Brotherhood of Muscle as it is about the vehicle purchase," said Tim Kuniskis, Dodge Brand Chief Executive Officer – Stellantis. "As a result, our brand enthusiasts are passionate about all things Dodge, including the latest cool collectibles. So, following the success of the Dodge 2018 LEGO Speed Champion building set, fans will now be able to build and show off not only the first ever 8-inch-wide (8W) muscle car, but also the first ever Plum Crazy 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A, along with an incredibly detailed 13½-long Top Fuel Dragster."

LEGO Speed Champions Dodge box The 627-piece Challenger T/A and Dragster include box art of their Rea-life counterparts. Photo courtesy of Stellantis

LEGO has had the Challenger over two inches high, five inches long, and 2.5 inches wide. The Dragster is four inches high thanks to its wing, and has a body that is 13.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide.

The set features a male Challenger driver in Dodge-branded clothing. The Dragster has a female driver in a Dodge race suit.

"In 2021, we are extremely excited to reteam with Dodge and expand the Speed Champions 8W Vehicle Collection even further by including new vehicle types and building experiences, for the first time, that appeal to vehicle fans of all ages," said Christopher Stamp, LEGO Design Lead.

LEGO Speed Champions Dodge The set includes two models.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The models will be released on June 1, 2021 at LEGO.com. Pricing for the models is not yet available.

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