Zoox has made good on its promise to unveil an autonomous vehicle on December 14, 2020. We’ve seen glimpses before, but this means the robotaxis are officially not vaporware. Earlier this year, Amazon bought the Foster City, California, company, which prompted speculation about it adding people-moving to its portfolio.
Some thought the e-commerce giant wanted Zoox’s autonomous vehicles in order to provide last-mile logistics. For now, Zoox is focusing only on driverless transportation for passengers, or ride-hailing. The launch date for the taxi service, however, remains unannounced. Whether or not the robocars will eventually ferry people and packages, Amazon is now behind autonomous vehicles.
Uber has already nixed its plans for robotaxis. An optimistic reading of today’s announcement may be that Amazon sees an opening in the robotaxi segment and is moving into a favourable position. This could very well be your robotaxi, “from a to z.” On the other hand, Amazon may have no intention of launching such a service.
Besides the service launch date, Zoox is also not quite disclosing the AV’s range. It is citing a 16-hour run-time instead, a 133 kWh battery and a max speed of up to 75 miles an hour. The robotaxi is not meant to be a long-haul machine.
Among the highlights of the platform are its advanced safety features, courtesy of wrap-around airbag systems for passengers. Zoox claims its innovations provide safety comparable to that of a vehicle with a five-star crash rating. Just two years ago — before Amazon bought it — Zoox was the first company California granted permission to pick up passengers in a fully-autonomous vehicle. The pieces are aligning for this driverless near-future.
And the company was a good sport about Jalopnik referring to its vehicles as “vaporware horseshit,” naming its test mules the VH1, VH2 and so on. It took our designation to heart and stuck the timeline. Here we are, seven years after we shared our take on Zoox, and the robot-car is real. The robot-car sharing service? We’ll still have to wait for that one.
I don’t know. I still think that if this service takes off I’ll be the annoying passenger in one of these, hitting random panels trying to get the secret steering wheel to slide out of some compartment while Amazon watches on, and Zoox HQ politely yells at me to cut it out because I’m not Will Smith and this isn’t I, Robot.