Amazon-owned Zoox ‘robotaxis’ hit the roads in California

15 Feb 2023

Image: Zoox

Following a successful test run, the Zoox driverless cars will be deployed to transport employees around Foster City in California.

Zoox, an autonomous vehicle company owned by Amazon, has successfully deployed its self-driving ‘robotaxis’ on the roads of California bringing us a step closer to a driverless car future.

The company confirmed earlier this week that it conducted the first run of its employee shuttle service in California’s Foster City last week. This follows “rigorous” testing on private roads and approval from California state to operate its robotaxis on public roads.

Aicha Evans, chief executive of Zoox, said that the company was the first to operate a purpose-built robotaxi with passengers on open public roads in California and called it a “significant milestone” not only for Zoox, but for the “autonomous vehicle industry at large”.

“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 commercialised purpose-built robotaxi service for the general public,” Evans said.

Zoox will not deploy its employee shuttle service for all full-time employees in Foster City, where the company is headquartered. Founded in California by Jesse Levinson and Tim Kentley Klay in 2014, Zoox was acquired by Amazon in the summer of 2020.

The robotaxi can transport up to four people at a time on a public route between two Zoox office buildings at a speed of up to 35mph while following traffic rules and avoiding colliding into other cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

Jesse Levinson, co-founder and chief technology officer at Zoox, called the robotaxi “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.

“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,” said Levinson.

“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.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic