Amazon tests robotaxi on public road with human passengers




SEATTLE, Washington: This week, Zoox, Amazon.com’s self-driving vehicle unit, said it has successfully tested a robotaxi on a public road with its employees serving as passengers.

The trial, conducted on 11th February between two Zoox buildings one mile apart at its headquarters in Foster City, California, is a step to offering the service on a commercial scale to the general public.

It was also part of the launch of a no-cost employee shuttle service, which will help the company develop its technology.

During a conference call, Chief Executive Aicha Evans told reporters, "Putting the vehicle on an open public road and validating our approach to all of the different requirements, including regulatory, is a big step and we would not have done it unless internally we were already looking at the line of sight for going commercial," as reported by Reuters.

The commercial launch of the service will require additional government approvals.

As the technology has proven difficult to perfect, the automated vehicle segment has not rolled out as fast as initially predicted. Companies still pursuing development of this technology include General Motors Co’s Cruise unit and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo.

Designed from the start as a fully autonomous vehicle, rather than retrofitting existing cars models, Zoox’s robotaxi does not have a steering wheel or pedals and can carry four passengers.

In 2020, online retail giant Amazon bought Zoox for $1.3 billion as part of its aggressive expansion into self-driving technology.

Jesse Levinson, Zoox’s tech chief, said that despite being prudent about its growth, the company was still on track to reach 2,500 employees this year, up from just under 2,000 employees at the start of the year.