Amazon's Self-Driving Taxi Company, Zoox, has unveiled a self-driving car with no steering wheel that can drive day and night on a single charge.
By 2021, Zoox plans to launch an app-based ride-hailing service in cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas. Zoox, once an independent company, was acquired by Amazon in June.
Today, several of Zoox's quirky-looking mint-green vehicles are already being built at a facility in Fremont, Calif where the factory has the capacity to eventually produce 10,000 to 15,000 units annually.
The unveiling of a production car marks a significant step for the company. Zoox's concept car does away with pedals, mirrors, and even the steering wheel. The ride uses cameras, lidars, and other sensors to help it navigate. If needed, Zoox employees can manually operate the vehicles remotely and communicate with passengers in real time.
“This is really about re-imagining transportation,” said Zoox CEO Aicha Evans on Bloomberg Television. “Not only do we have the capital required, we have the long-term vision.”
Evans added that the company would also introduce ride-hailing in other countries. Managers didn't tell how much rides will costs, but that the services offered by Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. were "affordable" and competitive. Nor did they say that it wouldn't happen in 2021 when the service would start, but confirmed it. Evans used the Zoox app in a video released on Monday to hail the car outside the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco and spin around the block.
Zoox is one of the companies competing to put autonomous vehicles on the road. Many retrofitted traditional cars are being tested on public roads, and few are deployed commercially.
In October, a completely driver-free taxi service in the suburban Phoenix was introduced by Alphabet Inc. General Motors-backed Cruise is also evaluating autonomous vehicles in San Francisco—recently with no safety drivers behind the wheel—using a Chevy Bolt based electric vehicle fleet.
While several years have passed since their use, several of the peculiarly mint-green vehicles at the Zoox in Fremont, Calif are still being installed. The factory will produce between 10,000 and 15,000 units a year the managers said. Suppliers submit pre-assembled key components and Zoox then assembles final stages.