Amazon’s Zoox completes ‘critical checkpoint’ in robotaxi testing and rollout

Jesse Levinson, Zoox CTO and co-founder, speaks at Amazon re:MARS in Las Vegas this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

LAS VEGAS — Zoox, the robotaxi company acquired by Amazon for more than $1 billion in 2020, says it has achieved a key milestone in the testing and rollout of its autonomous electric vehicle.

Jesse Levinson, the Zoox co-founder and CTO, told the audience at Amazon’s re:MARS event here Tuesday night that Zoox “recently completed a critical checkpoint that we haven’t talked about publicly yet.”

Specifically, he said, the Zoox vehicle operated “with no one inside, no chase vehicle, and no emergency stop, all on open, private roads with non-Zoox agents, including pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trucks.”

Zoox L5 Fully Autonomous, All-electric Robotaxi. (Zoox Photo)

The vehicle satisfied safety requirements in these tests, which means it “can operate in an unstructured environment at human-plus safety levels,” he said. “And we’re almost ready to do that on public roads.”

We’ve followed up with Zoox for more about what this means for its launch plans.

Zoox unveiled its passenger robotaxi in December 2020, opting to build the vehicle from the ground up rather than adapting an existing vehicle as others have done.

Levinson reiterated the benefits of this approach during his re:MARS talk. The advantages include the ability for the vehicle to operate in either direction, with better visibility for the built-in sensors because they’re not blocked by a hood.

Zoox expanded its testing to Seattle last year, using specially equipped L3 Toyota Highlanders with a safety driver on board. Amazon’s acquisition of Zoox was part of a larger push by the company into robotics, automation and electric vehicles.

PREVIOUSLY: Zoox CTO on the Amazon acquisition, and the environmental promise of self-driving taxis

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Editor’s Note: Levinson’s title corrected since original post.

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