The pandemic has really shown just how much Amazon delivers in the world today. It seems like regardless of where you are, you’ll inevitably see an Amazon delivery truck showing up and dropping off packages. Well, Amazon is evidently not satisfied with just delivering packages, but now it also wants to branch into delivering human beings. Zoox, Amazon’s self-driving vehicle company, has unveiled its first “robotaxi,” a self-driving, carriage style car that has enough space for four passengers.
The autonomous taxi looks like small subway car, with sliding doors on either side and seats that face each other (“carriage style”). There’s no space for a driver, which makes sense as there isn’t a steering wheel or any pedals. It has bidirectional driving capabilities as well as four-wheel steering. These features allow the robotaxi to change directions without need to go into reverse. It also makes it easier for the car to navigate through compact spaces.
A whole network of cameras, radar, and lidar sensors help to eliminate blind spots and to provide a 270 degree field of vision. Considering that the car can reach speeds of 75 miles per hour, all those sensors are pretty important. Safety also includes an airbag system on all four seats. The car’s 133 kWh battery provides for 16 hours of use, making this a prime candidate for fleets and ride-hailing services. The robotaxis are already being tested in three cities: Las Vegas, Nevada; Foster City, California; and San Francisco, California.
Zoox has been around since 2014 and created its first prototype in 2015. They achieved SAE Level-3 autonomy in 2017, with production prototypes rolling off the assembly line in 2019. Amazon acquired the company in May of 2020. The plan for now is to not sell the vehicles, but to instead create a ride-hailing service that can complement existing public transportation systems.
Revealing our functioning and driving vehicle is an exciting milestone in our company’s history and marks an important step on our journey towards developing an autonomous ride-hailing service,” said Zoox’s CEO, Aicha Evans. “We are transforming the rider experience to provide superior mobility-as-a-service for cities. And as we see the alarming statistics around carbon emissions and traffic accidents, it’s more important than ever that we build a sustainable, safe solution that allows riders to get from point A to point B.” And that’s something Amazon excels at.