Zoox is the first self-driving tech company to meet crash safety standards in the U.S. It isn't ready to say when it will start picking up fares.
We are very close to one another. The first time Zoox's assembly facility was open to the public was on Tuesday. You are going to see it soon.
The company, based in Foster City, California, submitted crash test results to the government at the end of June. Zoox's vehicle is different from Cruise and other small-scale robotaxi programs, which use modified electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which combine a batterypack and small gasoline engine. The four-passenger vehicle it plans to start with has no steering wheel, pedals or driving controls. The vehicle has electric motor and battery packs in the front and back.
The architect of Zoox's self-driving tech is right to be cautious about the timetable. He doesn't have control over it. Zoox needs approval from California's Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. transportation department to operate its robot on public roads.
It may have become harder to get those green lights after an accident involving a Cruiserobotaxi that was struck by another driver in San Francisco. The passenger in the Cruise vehicle and the driver of the Toyota were injured in the crash. Both California officials and the NHTSA are reviewing the accident.
The cruise began giving rides in June. It plans to offer rides in its Origin vans with inward-facing seats and no steering wheel or pedals, but for now relies on a fleet of electric Chevrolet Bolt hatchbacks. Cruise was the first company to offer a fee-paying ride service without a human behind the wheel. The company is also trying to get that designation.
There is no disclosure of how much revenue the company gets from its delivery androbotaxi services. Since 2020, the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans have been giving rides to passengers in the Phoenix area.
The current on-road test fleet is made up of Toyota Highlander SUVs with computers, laser lidar, cameras, radar and other sensors, but it has begun low-level production of robotaxis at its facility. Zoox will be able to produce tens of thousands of robotaxis a year at their factory. In San Francisco and Las Vegas, they will be deployed in ride services.
Mark Rosekind, who led NHTSA during the final years of the Obama Administration, is the chief safety innovation officer for the company.
There are over a hundred safety innovations built into the vehicle that are not available in cars that are on the road today. In the event of a crash, the horseshoe airbag deploys from the roof of therobotaxi to wrap around all passengers.
Rosekind said that they knew which federal motor vehicle safety standards would have to be incorporated. He said the vehicle would achieve a five-star federal crash rating if it were sold to consumers. Since we don't sell it to anyone, we're not required to do that.
The vehicle is large, which is surprising. A roomy cabin is possible due to the lack of a conventional engine and driving controls.
The Zoox vehicle stopped to allow people to walk through a parking lot after a short test ride around the factory. The ride experience is different from that of Cruise vehicles because of the unique cabin and seating design with passengers facing each other. It is more akin to high-tech mass transit.
Once it's certified to operate on public roads, the robotaxi is designed to go up to 75 mph on the highway, powered by a 132- kilo watt-hour battery system that's robust enough to operate for 16 hours a day before needing to be charged.
Zoox isn't under competitive or financial pressure to begin ride operations and that Amazon is willing to be patient, according to the son of Apple Chairman Arthur D. He said they weren't out there raising money.
There is a huge demand for going from one point to another. Even for a company of Amazon's size, that's interesting. It is not a get-rich- quick scheme. If we do a good job, they should be over the next ten years.