Amazon Zoox, the First Certified Robotaxi Or Is It?
The end of cars as we know them?
About two years ago, Amazon subsidiary, Zoox, showed the world their very own electric autonomous robotaxi developed from the ground up by them. The strange cube-shaped vehicle that would probably look more at home on a golf course than on your local streets has started to be rolled out on public roads in northern California as Zoox claims to have received the permits to do so from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Thus far, it is only the one taxi that has been released on the unsuspecting public, but this is the very same vehicle that Zoox claims has passed a self-certification from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards authority.
Initially, the vehicle will only be available to Zoox employees, running as a shuttle between the company’s building in Foster City California, a route of about two miles, but that is two miles of public roads. This may sound simple, but according to Aicha Evans, Zoox CEO, it is actually a very complex route that little cube has to traverse.
Most of us have never heard of Zoox. They have very much been driving under the media radar. The company is barely eight years old but has the ambitious plan to build and operate a commercial robotaxi service using vehicles they designed, developed and built in-house. Thus far, they have but one certified vehicle but they have built several of them. They have the intention of gradually releasing them into the public in ever larger areas.
But there is a problem with the vehicle. It doesn’t have a steering wheel nor pedals and that means it would need a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards exemption (FMVSS) and it is this that the NHTSA are reviewing to see if there are grounds for Zoox to be granted one. Failing this, the Zoox could be taken off the road.
Whilst that would be a bit of a setback for Zoox, the company also has a fleet of Toyota Highlander vehicles equipped with a self-driving system operating on public roads in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Foster City and Seattle, so it may safe to say that Amazon Zoox could be coming to a town near you in the future.
Ahhh, isn’t it cute? I think we should call it the Toaster…….