Coronavirus Resources from NHTSA

Coronavirus: Innovative Automotive Technologies

To Address Unique Challenges Posed by Crisis

A Letter to Stakeholders

From NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens

April 10, 2020

During the current crisis, Americans face immense challenges, concerns, and hardship. Nevertheless, in the midst of immeasurable difficulties, the American public and businesses alike have displayed extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness in rising to meet many of the Country’s needs.  While these measures transcend all sectors, we are especially appreciative of the innumerable contributions of NHTSA stakeholders, which include Emergency Medical Services (EMS) First Responders providing critical care; vehicle dealers and service facilities ensuring that front-line workers maintain reliable and safe transportation; manufacturers and suppliers adapting operations to produce lifesaving medical equipment; and operators of delivery vehicles—including some utilizing automated driving system technologies—providing vital delivery services to sustain crucial supply chains. 

We urge all of our stakeholders to explore the potential for using innovative automotive technologies, in particular, to address the unique challenges posed by this crisis.  We also encourage stakeholders to communicate with the agency about ways in which NHTSA may facilitate the development and implementation of such solutions, consistent with motor vehicle safety.  Please raise any potential projects with your usual points of contact at the agency or Caitlin McKeighan at c.mckeighan@dot.gov.  

To further awareness of these issues and cultivate ideas for possible future initiatives, NHTSA has also launched a microsite containing information and frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to COVID-19.  This microsite provides resources and guidance regarding the agency’s response to the crisis, and will highlight efforts undertaken throughout the automotive community to innovatively meet the needs of Americans. 

All of us at NHTSA applaud the daily contributions and ingenuity demonstrated by our stakeholders and their employees as they assist their surrounding communities.   We look forward to a continued partnership with you to advance these efforts during this challenging time. 

Sincerely,

James C. Owens
Acting Administrator

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Technologies in Action

Alliance for Automotive Innovation Helps Address COVID-19 Challenges 

Members of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents 99% of cars and light trucks sold in the United States, are helping to address challenges related to COVID-19. Members have come up with innovative approaches to combat the public health emergency, including producing supplies like ventilators, intubation equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Joint Venture Provides Meals to Families at High Risk for COVID-19 

Hyundai-Aptiv Driving Joint Venture is now working with a non-profit to provide meals to vulnerable families at risk of contracting COVID-19. The company is using autonomous vehicles with a safety driver, that had previously been used to transport passengers, to deliver food from Las Vegas restaurants.

Kiwibot Robots Delivering Masks and Other Essentials

Kiwibot, known for delivering food with its sidewalk delivery robots in Berkeley, California and Denver, Colorado, has begun delivering masks, antibacterial gels, and other hygiene-related products during the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Pony.ai Using Automated SUVs to Deliver Groceries and Packages 

Pony.ai is using its fleet of 10 automated sport utility vehicles to deliver groceries and packages in Irvine, California. This comes after the company suspended automated vehicle operations with passengers during the public health emergency. The vehicles are capable of carrying 10 to 20 orders at a time, and Pony.ai expects each vehicle to deliver approximately 100 orders a day. Each vehicle has a safety operator who will unload orders and leave them at doorsteps. Pony.ai has also worked with the City of Fremont, California, to distribute meals to a local emergency shelter program.

Refraction AI Increases Food Deliveries by Robots 

Refraction AI has expanded its customer base since COVID-19 began, using its delivery robots to bring food from restaurants and a grocery store to people’s homes. The company, which operates in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said the number of trips the robots have taken has quadrupled. The company currently has eight robots, and has contracted with Roush Industries to increase production and hopes to have an additional 18 delivery robots up and running by the middle of the summer.

Starship Delivering Goods from Market to Homes

Starship Technologies began providing automated deliveries from a Washington, DC, market to nearby homes in March. The company had been pilot testing primarily on university campuses, but switched course when the public health emergency began. Starship has also expanded its operations in other existing locations and has announced pilots in new locations. 

Nuro Will Test AV Delivery of Prescriptions in Houston Area

Nuro has partnered with CVS Pharmacy to deliver prescriptions and essentials across three zip codes in Houston starting in June, first with modified conventional vehicles, and later with Nuro’s fully autonomous R2 passengerless delivery vehicle.

Cruise Self-Driving Vehicles Make Food Deliveries

Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, has repurposed a portion of its self-driving electric vehicle test fleet (each vehicle is staffed by two safety drivers) to aid critical local partners such as the San Francisco Marin Food Bank and San Francisco New Deal to provide needed food deliveries to at-risk populations and frontline workers across the city. The effort ensures food is safely packaged, handled, and delivered contact-free door-to-door, expanding the reach of these important groups and supporting participating small businesses, while allowing those most vulnerable to stay indoors.

Ford Works on Design, Production of Medical Equipment and Supplies

Ford is expanding its efforts to design and produce urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for health care workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus. In addition to the current production of more than 3 million face shields, Ford-designed powered air-purifying respirator production has begun. Ford also is now producing face masks and leading an effort to scale production of reusable gowns for health care workers, and is providing expertise to help expand production of collection kits to test for the virus.

Kodiak Robotics Increases Deliveries of Critical Goods

Kodiak Robotics, a California-based developer of self-driving truck technology, has increased the number of commercial loads its safety driver-operated test trucks are carrying on the Dallas-Houston freight lane to help meet demand for critical goods.

Nuro's Unmanned Vehicles Deliver Medical Supplies, Food

San Francisco-based Nuro has launched two new initiatives using its R2 automated vehicles to provide contactless delivery to health care facilities. In Sacramento, R2 vehicles are delivering medical supplies to the Sleep Train Arena, which was converted into an alternative care facility to house up to 400 COVID-19 patients. In San Mateo County, R2s are being used to transport food, water, and other needed supplies to the event center, which was converted into a multi-purpose facility to assist with COVID-19 response.

Velodyne Lidar Enabling High-Tech Disinfection

Velodyne has partnered with UV light scientists and its robot-design customers to develop robots that can disinfect. Robots are excellent at moving around contaminated facilities to disinfect and reduce the virus load, not just in hospitals but in schools, offices, and more. The goal is to produce robots in three sizes and choices for inside buildings, outdoor plazas, and more.

Automated Driving Systems Transporting COVID-19 Tests Between Testing Site and Lab 

Beep, NAVYA, and Jacksonville Transportation Authority have teamed up to transport COVID-19 tests and medical supplies to a nearby Mayo Clinic. In addition, Beep has started autonomous shuttle deliveries of pizzas to the health care workers on the front lines at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Uber Helping with All Types of Transport

With fewer people needing a typical ride because of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, Uber has switched gears to “move what matters.” The company will work with cities, food banks, hospitals, and others to help transport items that need to be delivered. Uber has created other programs and is using Uber Freight to assist with COVID-19 resource needs.

Autonomous Truck Company TuSimple Delivering Goods

TuSimple, a company operating autonomous trucks, is hauling essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis. While current regulations require a driver inside their autonomous trucks, TuSimple is closely monitoring how automated driving systems could greatly increase the capacity and safety of the U.S. supply chain during a future crisis.