The fable goes that the tortoise beat the hare in its race by its slow and steady pace. Slow and steady is the approach that Zoox is taking to achieve safe and sustainable autonomous mobility. In the above interview, filmed at CES2023, Paul Escobar, Senior Public Policy & Safety Strategy Manager for Zoox, describes how they are designing a vehicle around the needs of passengers.
To be clear, Zoox’s vehicle will be part of a ride-hail service and won’t be available for purchase. The business model includes shared passenger rides, effectively reducing per passenger cost and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), compared to the human-driven ride-hailing services.
Zoox understands the importance and challenge of designing for inclusivity. Escobar points to light and sound systems that allow communications between passengers and other road users. He indicates that they are engaging with different accessibility groups to gather their input and modify the design over time.
Escobar emphasizes that safety is foundational for autonomous technology. Before it hits the public roads, Zoox’s validation of the technology includes extensive testing in their private test facilities. Escobar explains that, last June, Zoox self-certified its vehicle to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
It is the state and local jurisdictions, law enforcement, and first responders that must be won over before we will see these on the road. Escobar indicates that they make a point to reach out to these stakeholders well in advance of operations. He advises jurisdictions to provide clear pathways to deployment and driverless operations.
Although they are not providing dates for when Zoox vehicles will be commercially available, when they are available, these U.S. manufactured workhouses will last up to 16 hours between charges. Even though Amazon is Zoox’s parent, their focus is on moving humans and not packages.
It is also clear that Amazon provides Zoox with the resources needed for taking the long, safe, and accessible road to autonomy.