Amazon startup targets Waymo with new electric robotaxi

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Autonomous vehicle provider Zoox is challenging Google in the automated ride-hailing niche.

Zoox, which was purchased by Amazon for a reported $1.2 billion-plus USD in June 2020, is revealing a fully functional, electric, autonomous vehicle that is designed for dense, urban environments. 

The new robotaxi is capable of operating up to 75 miles per hour and will directly compete with the Waymo self-driving tax service Google is currently piloting in the Phoenix market. Other major players in the burgeoning automated ride-hailing space include the Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), recently acquired by Pittsburgh-based self-driving technology company Aurora. Uber ATG had been running pilots of self-driving cars in Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.

Designed and manufactured in the U.S., Zoox is currently the only vehicle to offer bidirectional driving capabilities and four-wheel steering, designed to enable maneuvering through compact spaces and changing directions without the need to reverse. 

At almost 12 ft. long, the vehicle features a four-seat, face-to-face symmetrical seating configuration that eliminates the steering wheel and bench seating seen in conventional car designs. The Zoox vehicle also features a 133 kWh battery, designed to operate for up to 16 continuous hours on a single charge. 

“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,” said Aicha Evans, Zoox CEO. “We are transforming the rider experience to provide superior mobility-as-a-service for cities. And as we see the alarming statistics around carbon emissions and traffic accidents, it’s more important than ever that we build a sustainable, safe solution that allows riders to get from point A to point B.”

Zoox is currently testing its new robotaxi model in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and its corporate headquarters location of Foster City, Calif.