Amazon’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, Zoox, has announced that its robotaxis have started rolling out on public roads in California. The company received a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission in December 2020, allowing it to operate an autonomous ride-hailing service.
This milestone marks a significant step for Amazon as it expands its presence in the transportation sector. The tech giant acquired Zoox in June 2020 for a reported $1.2 billion and has since been working on developing the company’s self-driving technology.
Zoox’s robotaxis are designed to be fully electric, fully autonomous, and purpose-built for ride-sharing. They are equipped with a range of sensors, including lidar, radar, and cameras, that enable them to navigate complex urban environments and safely transport passengers.
The vehicles can accommodate up to four passengers and have no steering wheels, pedals, or rearview mirrors. Instead, passengers can control the ride experience through a touchscreen interface inside the car.
Zoox has been testing its technology in closed environments, such as private tracks and parking lots, since its inception in 2014. The company’s expansion to public roads is a critical milestone in its journey to commercialize autonomous ride-hailing.
However, Zoox faces stiff competition in the autonomous vehicle space. Other major players, such as Waymo, Cruise, and Uber, are also testing their self-driving cars on public roads. It remains to be seen how Zoox’s technology stacks up against its rivals.
Zoox’s expansion into the autonomous ride-hailing market comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the transportation sector. The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards contactless and self-driving services, as people become more hesitant to use public transportation.
As autonomous vehicle technology continues to improve, it is likely that ride-sharing services will become more common. However, there are also concerns about the impact of autonomous vehicles on employment in the transportation sector, as well as the safety and regulatory challenges that come with self-driving cars.
In conclusion, the rollout of Zoox’s robotaxis on public roads in California marks a significant milestone for Amazon’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary. It is a step towards commercializing self-driving ride-hailing services, but the company faces tough competition from other players in the autonomous vehicle space. Only time will tell if Zoox’s technology can deliver on its promise of safe and efficient transportation.