Design

Nuro's cute new autonomous delivery bot has airbags on the outside

Airbag or no airbag, getting bonked by one of these things will probably ruin your day.

As exciting as the future of autonomous mobility can be, it’s also a little bit harrowing — just watch this Tesla try to navigate traffic and tell me your heart rate didn’t spike. Given the unique challenges of enabling autonomous transit without catastrophe, safety features are going to need some rethinking too.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Hearst Newspapers/Getty Images

On that front, Nuro, with recently showcased its third-gen autonomous robot, is taking a novel approach to airbags, making a monumental shift and placing them — get this — on the outside.

As strange as the move is, it makes sense. Without a passenger inside the vehicle, safety concerns shift to anyone in its vicinity. It’s hard to say how effective the measure would be in preventing serious injury, but at low speeds, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

The only problem is Nuro’s new model reaches a pretty brisk clip of 45 mph, so as helpful as external airbags may be at lower speeds, getting bonked by a flying mattress might not have the same perks.

In its new generation, Nuro is also increasing the carrying capacity to maximize each trip while also making it 20 percent smaller than a typical passenger car. While Nuro’s unveiling only included renderings of the bot, it says that the bot is “read to be produced at scale.”

Big, mattress-like, airbags and all.