Amazon’s Zoox unveils its first fully autonomous robotaxi

The goal is to launch a new automated ride hailing service, but the company conceded that autonomous package delivery could also be a viable use case.

Zoox, the self-driving startup Amazon acquired back in June, has unveiled its first autonomous vehicle. It’s not a car, nor a van, but rather a quirky looking robotaxi that resembles a little a minibus with a symmetrical design. According to the company’s own definition the vehicle is a driverless carriage: it sports an electrical motor at each end and can drive in both directions, with a maximum speed of 75 km/h and a range of up to 16hrs before recharging, thanks to a double battery placed under each seat. Zoox’s robotaxi will sit four and initially will be employed to launch a fully autonomous ride hailing service in cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas.

People will book their ride with a dedicated app and prices, the company said, will compete with Uber and Lyft fares. Zoox also plans to expand the service to other countries, while its CEO conceded that the vehicle could also be repurposed to automate the delivery of Amazon packages. The company has already successfully demonstrated a first working prototype of the vehicle, but due to regulations and the need to develop and set up a proper service, there’s a good chance that Zoox’s robotaxi won’t hit the road at least until 2022.

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