Zoox’s robotaxi service is making its way to the streets of Foster City, California in a first-of-its-kind trip for the company since it was created 9 years ago. Zoox was purchased by Amazon in 2020, and it has since worked tirelessly to create an entirely autonomous experience for riders.
The robotaxi relies on its bidirectional driver capabilities and four-wheel steering to change direction, moving on its own accord. A Zoox spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo that the robotaxi can handle left and right-hand turns and bi-directional turns, and can navigate traffic lights, cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles, and other road agents on its route.
It embarked on its first drive while carrying passengers on Saturday after receiving approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles last week. The company announced the DMV’s approval in a Twitter post on Monday, writing, “It marked the first time in history that a purpose-built robotaxi—with no manual controls—drove autonomously on open public roads with passengers. It was a huge milestone for Zoox and the AV industry.”
Although Zoox did receive permit approval, it is not applicable on all roads and currently can only be used to bring employees between its two office buildings located about one mile apart.
The Zoox spokesperson said in the email, “Zoox conducted the maiden run of its employee shuttle service in Foster City, California, marking the first time in history a purpose-built autonomous robotaxi without traditional driving controls carried passengers on open public roads.”
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The company was first established as a startup in 2014 and the company said in its press release that it had a long road ahead but was committed to creating a vehicle that would revolutionize the taxi industry. “Starting from scratch gave us a long to-do list,” the company said in its press release.
“Doing something completely new meant more testing, more complexity, and more time. But through dirt, dust, and thousands of rigorous testing scenarios, we’ve proven our technology is ready for reality.”
Zoox’s robotaxi reaches 35 miles per hour and “is an amazing milestone for Zoox and the autonomous vehicle industry as a whole,” CEO Aicha Evans said in the press release. “It’s a testament to our vision and the dedication, focus, and hard work of our crew.”
Other companies have clambered on board to create their own robotaxi with GM rolling out its Cruise driverless taxi which similarly does not have manual controls. Google’s parent company, Alphabet also received approval to roll out its robotaxi service, Waymo, in California last year.
The company has not released a timeline for when the robotaxi will be made available to the public but said it is on the horizon and making it available to employees first will allow them to reap the benefits of all their hard work.
Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson said in the press release, “Getting to be the world’s first passenger in a robotaxi with no manual controls on open public roads, along with Aicha this past Saturday, was one of the highlights of my life.”