Autonomous-mobility-as-a-service company Zoox has deployed the world’s first purpose-built robotaxi on open public roads with passengers. On 11 February, Zoox conducted the first run of its employee shuttle service in Foster City, California, marking the first time in history that a purpose-built autonomous robotaxi without traditional driving controls carried passengers on open public roads.
In order to reach this milestone, Zoox completed rigorous testing on private roads and received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to operate its robotaxi on the state’s public roads. To date, Zoox is the only purpose-built robotaxi permitted on California public roads that is self-certified to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Zoox’s ground-up design, which doesn’t include traditional driving controls, such as a steering wheel or pedals, incorporated FMVSS performance requirements directly into its vehicle and added more than 100 safety innovations that currently aren’t available in passenger cars.
‘Becoming the first company to operate a purpose-built robotaxi with passengers on open public roads in California is a significant milestone in not only Zoox’s journey, but for the autonomous-vehicle industry at large,’ said Aicha Evans, Zoox’s CEO. ‘Today, with the announcement of the maiden run of our autonomous employee shuttle, we are adding to the progress this industry has seen over the last year and bringing Zoox one step closer to a commercialised purpose-built robotaxi service for the general public.’
Following the completion of its historic first run, Zoox will deploy its employee shuttle service in its headquarters in Foster City. The employee shuttle service will be offered exclusively to all Zoox full-time employees. The robotaxi is capable of transporting up to four people at a time on a public route between Zoox’s two main office buildings, traveling at speeds of up to 56 km/h, and handling left-hand and right-hand turns, bi-directional turns, traffic lights, cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles and other road agents on the route.
‘The founding premise of Zoox was that the best way to advance transportation and increase safety on our roadways was to reimagine the full mobility experience. That means going beyond retrofitting today’s passenger vehicles with autonomous technology,’ said Jesse Levinson, Zoox’s co-founder and chief technology officer. ‘It is a feat of design and engineering – and the culmination of years of hard work – to drive a purpose-built vehicle fully autonomously and without safety drivers. With the ability to operate our vehicle on public roads and the deployment of our employee shuttle service, we’ll continue to refine and improve our technology and operations as we prepare for our commercial service launch.’
In compliance with the California DMV permit, Zoox will first provide its service to its employees. As the company continues to advance its progress and secure additional government clearances, it will expand its service to the general public.