This weekend saw an impressive milestone for Zoox, marking what the company says is the first time in history that a purpose-built robotaxi—with no manual controls like a steering wheel and pedals—drove autonomously on open public roads with passengers. Paving the way last week was the California Department of Motor Vehicles granting the company’s permit to operate its robotaxi autonomously on public roads.
In July 2022, Zoox became the first company to self-certify a purpose-built, fully autonomous, all-electric passenger vehicle to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) needed to operate on public roads. Its ground-up design, which does not include traditional driving controls such as a steering wheel or pedals, incorporates FMVSS performance requirements directly, adding more than 100 safety innovations not available in today’s passenger cars, according to the company.
“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 the completion of its historic first run, and in compliance with the California DMV permit, Zoox will first provide a shuttle service exclusively to Zoox full-time employees at its headquarters in Foster City, CA. As the company continues to advance its progress and secure additional government clearances, it will expand its service to the public.
“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.”
The company detailed the road to the latest milestone in a Journal entry as it gets another step closer to public launch. “Reinventing transportation” meant assessing all-new innovations at every stage starting in the lab and at its employees’ desks. Its vehicle was put through iterative loops of simulations and structured testing. In the test chamber, this meant in heat and rain to check anything that could compromise rider comfort. Outdoors, clocking miles on the company’s private test tracks allowed it to pick up speed and recreate city-like scenarios in a controlled environment. Meanwhile, its L3 test fleet collected road data and drove more than a million autonomous miles in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle.
The robotaxi can transport up to four people at a time on a public route between Zoox’s two main office buildings and can reach speeds of 75 mph but drove at 35 mph during the test route as per speed limits. On routes, it can safely navigate left-hand and right-hand turns, bi-directional turns, traffic lights, cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles, and other road users.