It has no steering wheel or reverse function.
As well as building a fleet of 100,000 electric Rivian delivery vans as part of a $700 million investment, Amazon also acquired self-driving startup company Zoox earlier this year for $1.2 billion to develop autonomous car technology. After announcing the deal back in July, Zoox has revealed its first fully electric autonomous car designed to be used for a robotaxi service.
Zoox claims this is the only autonomous vehicle with "bidirectional driving capabilities" and four-wheel steering, enabling it to navigate through tight spaces and rapidly change direction without needing to reverse. It's also the only robotaxi that can be driven at speeds of up to 75 mph, potentially making it suitable for highway use.
Despite only measuring 132 inches long, the Zoox has seating for up to four passengers, while the symmetrical seating configuration eliminates the need for a steering wheel and conventional bench seating. Range mileage details are being kept under wraps for now, but a 133-Wh battery will enable the Zoox to run 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 Chief Executive Officer. "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 claims the autonomous robotaxi has more than 100 safety innovations you won't find in conventional cars, including a "novel airbag system for bidirectional vehicles" and carriage seating that envelops passengers. The startup claims this will provide five-star safety protection for all four seats. A combination of cameras, radar, and LIDAR sensors will also provide a 270-degree field of view on all four corners of the vehicle that can prevent blind spots and detect nearby pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
The big question on our minds is when will Amazon's new robotaxi service launch? Zoox hasn't provided a date to answer that question, but it could face some tough competition from rival companies. Ford is planning to launch its own ride-hailing service in 2022 after testing self-driving Fusion sedans on the streets and Mercedes-Benz has tested robotaxis in California.