Amazon reveals its first Robotaxi

You know the drill when you’re calling an Uber: you never know whether you'll have to talk or not (sometimes it's fun, other times, a little awkward). Fear no more, you asocial beings: the time has (almost) come for driverless robotaxis.

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Source: Zoox website

The Machine

Earlier this week, Zoox, an Amazon-owned company, introduced its very first autonomous robotaxi, after 6 years of hard work, prototypes, and ultimate secrecy. Besides looking cool, here are some characteristics about the machine:

  • The vehicle is 12 feet long and has a limit of four passengers.
  • It can ride bi-directionally: back and forth, but also sideways, allowing extreme maneuverability.
  • Its 133kwh battery let's it run for 16 hours between charges, plenty enough for a full day of driving.
  • Its sensors, cameras and lidar technology gives it a global view of 270 degree on every corner. It should not miss a thing.
  • It is 100% driverless. And as a matter of fact, it always will be, as the vehicle has no pedals or steering wheels.
  • It is quite fast: the maximum speed of the vehicle is 75 mph, or 120 kmph, making it the fastest robotaxi on the market.
  • It is supposed to be safe: if a crash occurs, individual airbags will envelop each of the 4 passengers to avoid shocks within the vehicle and among passengers.
  • Passengers are able to control music, air conditioning, and see the progress of their route (map and estimated time of arrival)

The company is now testing their solution in San Francisco, and in Las Vegas.

 

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Source: Zoox website

 

Zoox, Amazon's new toy

Zoox was founded in 2014 and used to be valued at $3 billion before being acquired by Amazon this summer for $1.2 billion. The progress of the company was heavily slowed down by the pandemic, as they told the New York Times. So much so that they almost thought they would have to close operations, before being rescued by the Bezos machine.

The company has ambitious plans regarding the launch of a fully automated urban robotaxi service, with vehicles built in-house. “In a nutshell, we want to eventually move people around a city,” said Ms. Evans, who once held a top strategy job at Intel. “It’s purpose built.”

 

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Source: Zoox website

 

The competition

As you probably know, they are not the only company working on such a project. AutoX, a Chinese driverless service, already rolled out in Shenzhen, as did Alphabet-owned Waymo in Arizona. General Motors is testing prototypes in San Francisco, while Aurora acquired Uber's advanced technology group, working towards creating the mobility of the future.

Most competitors are looking to deploy their fleets of robotaxi in the next few years. The question is, who will be first?

 

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Source: Zoox website

 

Potential applications

We may indeed think of a few: the machine can transport people, replacing services like Uber and Lyft. The service would work just the same: open your app select your location and get driven by your personal robot. Something tells me that he will not even be mad if you do not leave a tip.

But we could also imagine it to be used for Amazon deliveries. Transport companies such as FedEx or UPS might have to fear this new competitor who is never tired, nor sleeps. Did I mention he worked for an intern's salary: free? Of course, this would only concern last mile transport, at least for now.

We must mention that the product is not yet ready for commercial use, but when it will be, the market disruption will be interesting to witness : great for some, painful for others, but interesting for the entire society.

 

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Source: Zoox website

Final words

Needless to say, Zoox is only a part of Amazon aggressive push into the transportation sector. The e-commerce giant also has stakes in Aurora and is pouring money into Rivian, a start-up working on electric vehicles.

Zoox CEO Aicha Evans, proud of the company's achievement in working toward a greener mobility, said: "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.”

 

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Source: Zoox website

Sources:

Amazon Owned Zoox Unveils Autonomous Robotaxi, in Morning Brew

Zoox unveils a modern stagecoach for the driverless era, in Axios

Amazon Zoox unveils self-driving robotaxi, in CNBC

Zoox's website

Here's the robotaxi Amazon wants you to ride around in, in CNN Business

Zoox unveils a self-driving car that could become Amazon’s first robotaxi, in the Verge

Amazon’s Zoox unveils electric robotaxi that can travel up to 75 mph, in TechCrunch

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