Say hello to the Zoox Robotaxi
Zoox, a self-driving car company that was acquired by Amazon in June, has revealed a self-driving EV which they term as the Robotaxi. After about six years of testing and prototyping, the latest iteration of the EV is believed to be the cornerstone of future autonomous ride-hailing services.
The Zoox Robotaxi with its ‘carriage style’ design is very similar to other autonomous cars that have come out of Silicon Valley over the last few years. Cars like the delivery-focused Nuro robot car and the GM-owned Cruise robotaxi are all based on the same boxy, compact driverless design. The Zoox Robotaxi seats up to four and is an all-electric all-wheel-drive car. At just 3.63 metres long, Zoox is smaller than other autonomous vehicles and that makes it ideal for crowded cities.
The interiors have bench seats which face inward. There are cup holders and wireless charging mats between seats. The car's roof even has a starry sky pattern, the kind we see in luxury vehicles like the Rolls Royce Ghost. Each seat has a small touchscreen display for the passengers to control music, air conditioning and navigation.
The Zoox Robotaxi is powered by a 133kWh battery pack, which is a little bigger than the packs that currently power Tesla’s most capable vehicles. Zoox also claims that these battery packs will last for 16 hours of continuous use. The Robotaxi has a top speed of 120kmph. Here’s something that is really interesting, the Zoox Robotaxi can even move sideways. To make it extremely useful and convenient in busy traffic, Zoox has given its EV a ‘bidirectional’ steering or in other words, four-wheel steering which enables it to not only move forward and backward, but sideways as well. Zoox says that with this feature, the Robotaxi will be able to handle precise maneuvers like ‘tight curbside pickups’ and ‘tricky U-turns’.
As with any autonomous car or taxi, the Zoox Robotaxi has a lot of safety tech. It gets multiple radar and LIDAR sensors along with multiple cameras. This provides a 270-degree view at each corner eliminating blind spots and providing redundancy in case a sensor fails. The sensor suite allows the vehicle to see objects up to 150 metres away. It features a new airbag design to protect passengers in the bench seating arrangement. It even uses Artificial Intelligence to detect and avoid potential risks while on the move. It has already passed crash tests and Zoox claims that it is still working on making the car as safe as possible.
Aicha Evans, CEO, Zoox, said, “Revealing our functioning and driving vehicle is an exciting milestone in our company’s history and marks an important step on our journey towards deploying an autonomous ride-hailing service.”
The Zoox Robotaxi is another step for tech giant Amazon, which is already looking to reveal a fleet of efficient EV delivery vans through Rivian and it also has a stake in Aurora, a company that recently acquired Uber’s self-driving division. The Zoox Robotaxi claims to start their services as soon as possible but have confirmed that it will not happen for at least another year.