Amazon-owned Zoox has started offering driverless robotaxi rides in California after receiving a testing permit from the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), the company announced. Unlike the autonomous vehicles from Cruise and Waymo, Zoox’s vehicles are purpose built for driverless taxi rides, so they have no steering wheel or pedals.
On February 11th, shortly after receiving the permit, Zoox conducted the “first 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,” it wrote in a press release.
To get to that point, the company completed what it called “rigorous” testing with the vehicles on private roads. It also ran its L3 test fleet (hybrid Toyota Highlanders with safety drivers) over a million autonomous miles on data-gathering missions in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Seattle.
Zoox has been developing its unique vehicles since it launched nine years ago, and was acquired by Amazon in a $1.2 billion merger in the summer of 2020. Its robotaxis, introduced later that year, are relatively tiny at 3.63 meters (11.9 feet) long, have passenger bench seats that face each other, four-wheel steering and can drive in either direction. That makes them highly maneuverable, but they can also travel at speeds up to 75 MPH and run 16 hours on a charge thanks to the immense 133kWh battery packs.
Zoox will now offer full-time employees robotaxi rides between its Foster City offices during business hours. “As the company continues to advance its progress and secure additional government clearances, it will expand its service to the general public,” the company wrote.