Amazon.com Inc-owned self-driving technology company Zoox announced on Tuesday that it was preparing to launch its robotaxi business by self-certifying that its car fulfils U.S. federal rules and seeking a permit in California to test-drive it.
The configuration of Zoox’s VH6 car, which seats four passengers with two facing each other, resembles that of the startup Cruise’s Origin vehicle, which was unveiled in January 2020. General Motors is in charge of Cruise.
“We really invested the extra time and resources to build a vehicle that doesn’t require exemptions and then that basically lets us control our own destiny and also deploy our vehicles at scale,” Jesse Levison, Zoox’s co-founder and chief technology officer told Reuters.
Zoox’s “Kato” plant in Fremont, California, where Tesla also manufactures automobiles, produces the VH6.
Levinson stated that the facility has produced dozens of VH6s and can produce tens of thousands of vehicles at its current site.
According to him, the current economic downturn has had no effect on the company, and Zoox will raise its employee count to 2,000 from 1,400 at the beginning of the year. Additionally, Levison stated that the company’s current focus is on transporting people, as opposed to packages, which are significantly less profitable.
Typically, self-driving tech companies with vehicles lacking a steering wheel or pedals have requested an “exemption” from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Levinson stated that Zoox elected to self-certify in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, knowing that this is a higher standard that makes Zoox responsible for the vehicle’s safety.
Typically, the NHTSA exemption restricts the quantity and duration of automobiles that can be manufactured.
This year, Cruise asked for an NHTSA exemption. According to a person close to the firm, Cruise considered this strategy more responsible and as providing authorities with a more transparent view of the technology.
Meanwhile, SoftBank-backed firm Nuro hopes that its next-generation car would “comply with all applicable government standards at the time of deployment.” Its current R2 car, which has pedals, a steering wheel, and inside space for only packages, was constructed with NHTSA exemption.