Less than a year after Amazon acquired the autonomous vehicle start-up Zoox, they have shown off their first self-driving vehicle. The Zoox autonomous taxi is built from the ground up with self-driving technology in mind, rather than building the technology around and existing vehicle like many others are doing.
The Zoox robotaxi is designed for autonomous driving in urban areas. It is only 3.6 metres long, making it nimbler in small streets and other city environments not suited to big cars. In fact, its footprint is one of the smallest in the industry. The vehicle doesn’t have a traditional front- or back-end and doesn’t even have a steering wheel. It can drive in any direction and has four-wheel steering and has a bench configuration on the inside where four passengers face each other.
The company says that the robotaxi can reach speeds up to 120 km/h. It has two individual battery packs, one close to each axel, and it can provide up to 16 hours of running before they need to be charged, i.e. it can run for a full day and charge up overnight again.
Zoox is already testing the taxis in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Foster City, but you probably can’t jump into one yet. According to reports, Zoox will launch an app-based ride service that will slot in alongside the likes of Uber and Lyft. That being said, this service will probably not launch until 2022 at the earliest.
Safety is one of the most important aspect of any autonomous vehicle, and Zoox has added interesting features to address these concerns. Because of its unconventional design, the two-sided nature of the vehicle needed a novel airbag solution. All four seats have the equivalent of five-star crash safety protection, according to the company. Furthermore, the camera, LIDAR and radar system provides a 270-degree field of view from all four corners of the robotaxi, meaning there are no blind spots around the vehicle.
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