Amazon’s Zoox, which was co-founded by Melbourne designer Tim Kentley-Klay and backed by Atlassian founder and Australian entreprenueur Mike Cannon-Brookes, has officially launched its autonomous urban transport vehicle after six years in the making.
As reported by The Driven on Monday, the funky, carriage-like vehicle was captured on camera during a photoshoot prior to its unveil which occurred at 4am on Tuesday (Australian time).
Now, Zoox has revealed details of the self-driving “robotaxi” which is designed to navigate tight urban spaces without the need for a driver, but can also drive at speeds of up to 120km/hr.
The reveal was compelling enough for Cannon-Brookes to get up at 4am to watch the livestream video, saying via Twitter that he, “Couldn’t be more excited for the world to see what @zoox has been up to.”
4am in the morning in Sydney 🙌🏻
— Mike Cannon-Brookes 👨🏼💻🧢 (@mcannonbrookes) December 14, 2020
And compelling it is. While Tesla is about to expand a beta testing program that CEO Elon Musk hopes will help it achieve fully-functional autonomy by 2021, Zoox says it had already achieved it.
But it is a very different beast to Tesla’s FSD, which would see Tesla owners able to reap revenue in return for allowing their cars to participate in a planned robo-taxi fleet (if and when this comes to fruition).
Instead, the Zoox vehicle is very much a one-trick ride-hailing pony – but a high-tech one at that.
The purpose-built bidirectional vehicle does away with a driver seat altogether, allowing for passengers to sit at either end of the carriage much like that of a tiny train.
Artificial intelligence, cutting edge robotics and a vision of sustainable energy underpin the Zoox vehicle’s technology.
“Revealing our functioning and driving vehicle is an exciting milestone in our company’s history and marks an important step on our journey towards deploying an autonomous ride-hailing service,” said Aicha Evans, Zoox CEO, in a statement.
“We are transforming the rider experience to provide superior mobility-as-a-service for cities. And 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.”
Inside, cosy spacious seating for four is enhanced by a personal entertainment interface on each side, while an expansive transparent roof allows both light in and passengers to see the sjy.
Its industry-topping 133kWh battery gives it enough juice to keep it on the road for up to 16 hours a day, says Zoox.
Zoox says it has achieved its autonomous functionality with 100 “proprietary safety innovations”, that includes the use of LiDAR, radar and an army of cameras for 270 degrees of vision, and a novel airbag system to keep passengers on carriage seats at both ends safe.
“Safety is the foundation of everything we do. Building a vehicle from the ground-up has given us the opportunity to reimagine passenger safety, shifting from reactive to proactive measures,” said Jesse Levinson, Zoox CTO and co-founder in a statement.
These include new safety features such as our airbag design, redundant hardware throughout the vehicle, a unique sensor architecture, and a custom AI stack that detects and mitigates potential risks. “Our vehicle has passed key FMVSS crash tests, and we are continuing to look for new, innovative ways to protect our riders and others on the road.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.