Say hello to this driverless taxi from Amazon-owned Zoox with a 16-hours’ run time. Zoox Inc., the self-driving startup owned by Amazon, unveiled a fully autonomous electric vehicle with no steering wheel that can drive day and night on a single charge. This is a product of six years of work.
Zoox, based in Foster City in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2014 and acquired by Amazon in June. It is an independent subsidiary at Amazon. Zoox is reinventing personal transportation—making the future safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable for everyone. Its vision for mobility goes beyond the vehicle itself to include a comprehensive and cohesive autonomous mobility platform, including charging and maintenance infrastructure and fleet management tools, in addition to vehicle software and hardware. This full-stack approach enables a more comprehensive, rider-focused deployment of the Zoox vision for urban mobility.
Although the vehicle not be sold to the public, it seeks to compete with Uber and DiDi.
Architecture and Design
Amazon-owned autonomous vehicle firm Zoox has unveiled an electric, autonomous robo-taxi that is capable of moving at up to 75 mph (about 120 kph), with four people seated in it. It is among the first vehicles with bidirectional capabilities and four-wheel steering, allowing for better maneuverability.
The robo-taxi’s sensor architecture includes cameras, radars, and lidars, that provide an overlapping field of view and 360°coverage, allowing the vehicle to consistently track objects next to and behind it, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users.
The vehicle can carry as many as four passengers. Two battery packs, one under each row of seats. Its 133 kWh batteries are larger than those currently in Tesla, whose Model S vehicles have 85 kWh batteries. For a car smaller than most sub-compacts, it looks pretty comfortable to ride in.
The vehicle can smartly operate in predefined areas with the help of a purpose-built geometric and semantic map. Its prediction system uses machine learning to anticipate what people and vehicles will do next.
Moreover, this 3.63-meter long self-driving car is run by artificial intelligence and can maneuver in compact spaces. The robo-taxi has a “bi-directional” drivetrain, meaning it can travel just as easily forward or backward. It handles driving situations aided by an array of six LIDAR and multiple radar sensors giving it a 270-degree field of view on each corner. The systems are sensitive enough to pick up objects and other vehicles from up to 150 meters away.
Amenities and Safety Features
Amazon’s smart car has four passenger seats, each equipped with a mobile device charger and cup holders. However, what is most striking is that each seat has a touch screen from where you can control the music, the air conditioning, and directions. Also, the vehicle’s canopy has a starry sky pattern.
The four-seat, face-to-face symmetrical seating configuration comes with an airbag system that envelopes the passengers to better protect their head, neck, and chest. Besides, it offers each rider a wireless mobile charger, as well as a screen to check their expected time of arrival, location, and route. The company can manually operate the vehicles remotely and communicate with passengers in real-time. Additionally, passengers will have the option to blur images captured by the on-board camera.
According to the company website, the vehicle will have amenities like wireless charging mats, cup holders, and touchscreens on each of the four armrests for controlling music, AC, and GPS.
It will also feature a personal control panel to set the music and in-car air conditions. As well as check on arrival time, location, and route. Since there’s no driver’s seat, each passenger will have the same comfort, space, and access to technology.
“Building a vehicle from the ground-up has given us the opportunity to reimagine passenger safety,” – Zoox’s CTO Jesse Levinson.
The Way Forward
To commercialize the technology, Zoox plans to launch an app-based ride-hailing service in cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas. Unlike its rivals, Zoox is developing the self-driving software stack, the on-demand ride-sharing app, and the vehicle itself. Zoox also plans to own, manage, and operate its robo-taxi fleet.
Several of Zoox’s quirky-looking mint-green vehicles are already being built at a facility in Fremont, California. The factory has the capacity to eventually produce 10,000 to 15,000 units annually, executives said.
Lastly, the driverless car looks quite similar to Nuro’s delivery van. Companies like Kroger, Domino’s, and CVS eventually plan to use for product delivery.