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Zoox, an autonomous vehicle company and Amazon subsidiary, has started giving autonomous rides in its purpose-built robotaxis. For now, the rides are available exclusively to Zoox employees between the company’s two main buildings, about a mile-long ride, at its headquarters in Foster City, California.
The rides began on February 11, 2023, when the company rolled out its Zoox robotaxi for the first time on public roads. The Zoox robotaxi has no steering wheel and no “front seat” and is instead equipped with rows of seating facing each other. Inside the vehicle, riders can control the music and air from touchscreen control panels near the seas, and check their arrival time, location and route whenever they want.
The rectangular vehicle has four-wheel steering, allowing it to perform precise maneuvers. Because it doesn’t have a driver’s seat, the small vehicle is bidirectional, meaning it can move forward and backward with ease.
In their current route, the robotaxis can go up to 35 mph. Zoox’s deployment is limited by the permit it earned from the California DMV, but over time as the system undergoes more testing, the company will likely receive approval to do more.
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“The founding premise of Zoox was that the best way to advance transportation and increase safety on our roadways was to reimagine the full mobility experience. That means going beyond retrofitting today’s passenger vehicles with autonomous technology,” Jesse Levinson, co-founder and chief technology officer at Zoox, said. “It is a feat of design and engineering – and the culmination of years of hard work – to drive a purpose-built vehicle, fully autonomously and without safety drivers. With the ability to operate our vehicle on public roads and the deployment of our employee shuttle service, we’ll continue to refine and improve our technology and operations as we prepare for our commercial service launch.
“Today, with the announcement of the maiden run of our autonomous employee shuttle, we are adding to the progress this industry has seen over the last year and bringing Zoox one step closer to a commercialized purpose-built robotaxi service for the general public,” Zoox’s CEO Aicha Evans said.
Zoox has spent months perfecting its autonomous driving software using its recently upgraded testing fleet. With such a uniquely designed vehicle, that can never be operated with a safety driver behind the wheel, Zoox’s testing fleet had to be precisely designed so that the autonomous driving knowledge it gains can be translated onto its public-facing vehicles.
Zoox isn’t the only company working to put a custom-made autonomous vehicle on the road. Earlier this month, Cruise started testing its Origin vehicle, also made with no steering wheel, on public roads.