The online retailer has been aggressively expanding into self-driving technology and bought the self-driving startup Zoox for $1.3 billion in 2020. A test conducted on 11 February saw the robotaxis successfully drive between two Zoox buildings a mile apart at its headquarters in Foster City, California. It was part of the launch of a no-cost employee shuttle service that will help the company refine its technology.
Zoox’s robotaxi – built as a fully autonomous vehicle from scratch rather than retrofitting existing cars for self-driving – comes without a steering wheel or pedals and has room for four passengers, with two facing each other.
Despite Silicon Valley’s promise to revolutionise the way we drive, autonomous vehicles have been slower to roll out than expected, and the technology has proven tough to master. Ford and Volkswagen last fall announced they would shutter their Argo AI self-driving unit and focus on driver-assistance technology that provided more immediate returns.
Zoox’s tech chief, Jesse Levinson, said the company has been prudent about its growth but was still on track to reach 2,500 employees this year, up from just under 2,000 employees at the beginning of the year.