The futuristic pods can seat four passengers and will be used to ferry Zoox employees between offices.
Zoox, an autonomous vehicle firm based in California, has announced that its electric robotaxi has finally hit the open road with passengers on board. The vehicle made history on February 11, when the self-driving car embarked on its inaugural run as an employee shuttle service. The company says this is the first time a purpose-built self-driving robotaxi without traditional controls has carried passengers on public roads.
It's not the first robotaxi to hit Californian roads, though. GM-backed Cruise has had its fleet of Chevrolet Bolt robotaxis operating in San Francisco for some time, but these vehicles are based on conventional vehicles and retain their driver controls.
The Amazon-owned self-driving company will now use its autonomous vehicle as an employee shuttle, with the vehicle ferrying Zoox full-time employees between the two main office buildings.
Zoox says the vehicle can accommodate up to four passengers and travel at speeds of up to 35 mph. It's also capable of navigating cyclists, traffic, pedestrians, and traffic lights with ease. This sounds promising, but self-driving cars still have to overcome several problems before the public puts their trust in the technology.
Last year, a Cruise autonomous taxi was involved in a crash that left several people injured. The company also suffered embarrassment after a fleet of Bolt EVs descended on a San Francisco street, causing chaos for hours on end.
Hopefully, Zoox experiences none of these issues for its robotaxi service, which for now, is limited to Zoox employees before expanding in the near future. Once the company secures the necessary government clearances, we may see the funky-looking van hitting roads across the country.
"Becoming the first company to operate a purpose-built robotaxi with passengers on open public roads in California is a significant milestone in not only Zoox's journey but for the autonomous vehicle industry at large," said Zoox CEO Aicha Evans.
"Today, with the announcement of the maiden run of our autonomous employee shuttle, we are adding to the progress this industry has seen over the last year and bringing Zoox one step closer to a commercialized purpose-built robotaxi service for the general public," she added.
Zoox will have a little competition in this segment. Motional and Lyft have partnered up to bring self-driving Hyundai Ioniq 5 taxis to Las Vegas, and there are plans for expansion. Of course, Cruise is one of the most prominent names in the field, and has recently broadened its reach to Phoenix and Austin.
Join The Discussion