Zoox, the Amazon-owned autonomous vehicle company, said its toaster-shaped driverless vehicle without steering wheel or pedals was cleared to drive on public roads with passengers in California. The company celebrated the milestone as the “first time in history that a purpose-built robotaxi – without any manual controls – drove autonomously with passengers”.
Zoox is one of dozens of companies currently testing AV vehicles on public roads in the Golden State. And although it lags behind rivals like Waymo and Cruise in the race to bring the technology to market, it is making strides in bringing a new kind of vehicle to the road – one that lacks traditional controls and could hardly be described. like a “car” in the modern sense of the word.
Last week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles approved a modification to Zoox’s existing testing permit allowing it to test its robotaxi in a “limited area” in Foster City, Calif., where the company is headquartered.
Zoox is one of dozens of companies currently testing AV vehicles on public roads in the Golden State.
But Zoox’s specially designed robotaxi can hardly travel where it wants. According to the DMV, the vehicle is limited to a maximum speed of 40 mph, can only be operated on Saturdays and Sundays during the day, and is prohibited from driving in bad weather.
According to Levinson, the Zoox vehicle drove a two-mile loop “dozens of times” on open roads with passengers in the vehicle. “Our vehicle has never stalled, paused or had any issues while driving,” he wrote. “As expected on open public roads, we encountered many vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, etc. The route features multiple traffic lights, left/right turns, unprotected cross-traffic and speeds of up to 35 mph.”
Levinson also answered questions about Zoox’s claim to be the first to deploy a purpose-built autonomous vehicle on public roads, given that Google carried passengers in its purpose-built Firefly vehicle on open roads a while ago. more than five years.
“Our vehicle has never stalled, paused or had any issues while driving.”
Google’s prototype was not built to meet federal safety standards, nor could it exceed 25 mph, Levinson said. Firefly “was also not intended for production, as it was clearly a test/research vehicle platform (which Waymo later discontinued),” he added. “In contrast, the Zoox robotaxi is full FMVSS compliant, fully street legal, and has a full set of safety and comfort features for our passengers.”
Zoox’s vehicle, which was first unveiled in 2020, is currently testing AVs in Seattle, Las Vegas and the Bay Area. The company mainly uses Toyota Highlanders equipped with sensors and cameras as part of its fleet.
Zoox is one of the few companies to build your own autonomous vehicle. Cruise, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is should start mass production of his Origin vehicle later this year. Both companies will need federal government permission to build large quantities of vehicles that don’t meet current safety standards, which require traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels.