A key milestone has been reached by Zoox with the company becoming the first to deploy a purpose-built robotaxi on open public roads with passengers, in California.
In Foster City, California, on February 11, 2023, Zoox carried out the first run of its employee shuttle service, marking “the first time in history a purpose-built autonomous robotaxi without traditional driving controls carried passengers on open public roads”, the company said.
To achieve this, a rigorous testing program was conducted, with the robotaxi being subjected to a range of tests on private roads, before being granted approval by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to operate the autonomous vehicle on the state’s public roads. At present, Zoox is the only robotaxi of its kind permitted to drive on public roads in California that is self-certified to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
Built from the ground up, Zoox’s robotaxi does not feature any traditional driving controls like a steering wheel or pedals. The company has also incorporated FMVSS performance requirements directly into the vehicle and added over 100 safety innovations.
“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, chief executive officer at Zoox. “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 commercialized purpose-built robotaxi service for the general public.”
Following its first run, Zoox will deploy its employee shuttle service at its headquarters in Foster City. The employee shuttle service will be offered exclusively to all Zoox full-time employees.
The robotaxi will transport up to four people on a public route between Zoox’s two main office buildings at speeds of up to 35mph. The vehicle will conduct a range of left- and right-hand turns, bi-directional turns in addition to safely navigating traffic lights, cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles and others.
“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, co-founder and chief technology officer at Zoox.
“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.