Amazon’s subsidiary Zoox unveiled a fully autonomous robot taxi on Monday, December 14.
It’s been almost six months since Amazon acquired unmanned car startup Zoox, and today the company announced its first autonomous vehicle, writes Engadget.
Instead of automating a standard car designed with a human driver in mind, the Zoox robotaxi is built specifically for autonomous driving in dense urban environments.
For example, it is just 3.63 metres long, making it one of the smallest robotaxis in the automotive industry. It’s also built with the ability to steer all four wheels and bi-directional movement – there’s no ‘front end’ to be strictly judged here.
There’s also no steering wheel and no standard seats; instead, four passengers face each other inside a compact vehicle that looks more like a single tram car than a car in the usual sense.
Despite its compact size, the Zoox robotaxi can reach speeds of up to 75mph. It’s powered by two separate battery packs that provide about 16 hours of operation before they need recharging, so one robotaxi should be able to do a day’s work before it needs power.
The pram also has some unique safety features that combine with its unconventional design, including an airbag system specifically designed for its bi-directional design.
Zoox report that all four seats have the equivalent of five-star crash protection. Meanwhile, a camera, lidar and radar system provide a 270-degree field of view from all four corners of the robotaxi, essentially eliminating blind spots.
Zoox says it is already testing its new robotaxi in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Foster City, California, although it’s not yet clear whether you’ll be able to ride in one of them. According to Bloomberg , the company plans to launch an app-based ride-hailing service similar to Uber and Lyft, but the company said it would not have a commercial launch in 2021.