By Ed Ludlow, Bloomberg News
Zoox Inc., the self-driving startup owned by Amazon.com Inc., carried passengers in its fully autonomous vehicle on public roads for the first time.
In February, the electric vehicle, which doesn’t have a steering wheel, ran a mile-long route carrying staff between Zoox’s two main buildings in Foster City, Calif., the company said in a statement. The firm will now operate a shuttle for employees on the same trip while it seeks additional clearances to expand its service to the public.
The company said the robotaxi trip marks the first time that a vehicle designed without human controls has carried passengers on a public road.
Zoox’s driverless testing permit, which it has held since September 2020, was extended by California to include the purpose-built robotaxi. To date, Zoox’s public-road testing has been limited to a fleet of retrofitted gas-powered cars that carry sensors powering the self-driving technology.
Zoox, which Amazon acquired in 2020 for an undisclosed sum, is racing a collection of startups, including General Motors Co.’s Cruise, to deploy robotaxis. Meanwhile, scrutiny of the technology over safety concerns is increasing.
On Feb. 3, Cruise said it had received permission from California’s department of motor vehicles to test its own Origin shuttle on the state’s public roads. They have not yet done so.
The Zoox robotaxi doesn’t have traditional controls or pedals and can carry four passengers split across two inward facing rows of seats. On the Foster City route, it will travel at a top speed of 35 miles per hour.
Zoox unveiled its robotaxi at the end of 2020 and has been conducting testing at its own facility.