Zoox Robotaxi Gets its Drivers' License in California

Zoox Gets its Drivers’ License

Depending on who you ask, the future of transportation is all about robotaxi services, and one – Zoox – just got its drivers’ license!

Zoox, the Amazon-owned autonomous tech company, is getting ready to launch a robotaxi business in California. The company is applying for a permit to operate the vehicle, which has no steering wheel or pedals.

Zoox announced that it was the first company to self-certify a purpose-built, fully autonomous passenger electric vehicle. The self-certification method means that the test-drive process doesn’t require any special exemptions in order to test an autonomous vehicle on public roads.

Typically, tech companies with autonomous vehicles that don’t have a steering wheel or pedals have applied to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for an exemption. Jesse Levinson, Zoox’s co-founder and chief technology officer, said Zoox chose instead to self-certify according to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, acknowledging this was a higher bar to clear that also makes Zoox liable for the safety of the vehicle.

“We really invested the extra time and resources to build a vehicle that doesn’t require exemptions and then that basically lets us control our own destiny and also deploy our vehicles at scale,” said Levinson.

The vehicle, dubbed the VH6, can seat up to four passengers, with the four seats facing each other.
Zoox is putting its focus on moving people instead of packages (think of how Walmart has pledged to buy 4,500 Canoo vehicles for last-mile deliveries). Levinson believes this tactic will be more lucrative, hoping to compete with ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. 

Other autonomous vehicle makers are trying to break into this segment, too. GM is the parent company of Cruise, which applied for a NHTSA exemption for its own robotaxi. The statement from Cruise is that this process offers more transparency for regulators, though it does also place limits on the number of vehicles that a company can manufacture and the production time period.


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