Amazon’s Zoox Unit Unveils Self-Driving Robo-Taxi

The online retail and technology giant Amazon acquired Foster City, California-based Zoox earlier this year in a deal reportedly worth $1.2 billion. The online retail juggernaut has expressed interest in autonomous vehicles that can help it deliver packages to customers.

Now, Amazon’s Zoox comes out with its first autonomous vehicle and makes Amazon the fourth major player to have a self-driving robotaxi service after Waymo, Cruise and AutoX.

The self-driving taxi (pictured) debuted by Zoox is just 3.63 meters long, has no steering wheel. Don’t let its size distract you from its capabilities though: it has an unusually large battery of 133kWh, nearly double that of common EVs, and can roam for 16 hours on a single charge. The interior is also unique. It gets really comfortable bench seats, which face inward with the passengers surrounded in textured fabric. It also features a radical new system for airbags alongside cupholders and wireless charging mats. The ceiling draws inspiration from the Rolls-Royce Ghost with its starry sky pattern and each seat even gets a touchscreen for the controlling music, AC and their route plus ETA.

Zoox has bi-directional capabilities i.e. it can drive both forward and backwards and side to side. This allows the car to handle tight curbside pickups” and tricky U-turns. It is also the fastest autonomous vehicle of its kind as it travels at 120 kilometers per hour. Under the hood, an artificial intelligence driving system pilots the taxi with the help of road data collected by lidar sensors, radars and cameras placed on the vehicle’s exterior. It even has sensors for redundancies and can see objects up to 150 metres away.

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Amazon has a long track record of successfully entering new markets across segments as varied as cloud computing and smart home electronics and now the company decides to jump in the self-driving space. The move could create more competition for existing players such as Alphabet Inc. Waymo division.

Zoox is currently testing the vehicles in certain parts of the U.S., there’s still no word yet on when they’ll be launched. Zoox is describing this new robo-taxi as a vehicle that’s “built for riders, not drivers.”