Amazon-owned self-driving company Zoox seeks to test robotaxi in California

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FREMONT, Calif., July 19 (Reuters) – Zoox, a self-driving technology company owned by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), said on Tuesday it was preparing to launch its robotaxi business, self-certifying that his vehicle with no pedals or steering wheel meets US federal regulations and requires a license in California to try it.

“We’ve really invested the extra time and resources to build a vehicle that doesn’t require exemptions and then allows us to control our own destiny and deploy our vehicles at scale,” said Jesse Levison, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Zoox. Reuters.

Zoox’s vehicle, called VH6, seats four passengers, two of whom face each other – a layout that resembles startup Cruise’s Origin vehicle unveiled in January 2020. Cruise is controlled by General Motors Co. (GM.N).

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The VH6 is produced at Zoox’s “Kato” factory in Fremont, California, a city where Tesla also builds its cars.

Levinson said the plant has produced dozens of VH6s and the current location can produce tens of thousands of vehicles.

He said the current economic downturn has not affected the company and that Zoox will increase its number of employees to 2,000 this year from 1,400 at the start of the year. Levison also said that for now the company is focused on moving people rather than packages, which is much more lucrative.

“We can compete with, say, Uber and Lyft and make money and be very competitive even in the early days of this technology,” he said.

Typically, self-driving tech companies with vehicles without steering wheels or pedals have applied for an “exemption” from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Levinson said Zoox instead opted to self-certify to federal motor vehicle safety standards, recognizing that this is a higher bar that makes Zoox responsible for vehicle safety.

The NHTSA exemption generally limits the number of vehicles that can be manufactured as well as the period of production.

Cruise applied for an exemption from NHTSA this year. A source close to the company said Cruise sees this method as more responsible and giving regulators a clearer view of the technology.

Meanwhile, Nuro, an autonomous startup backed by SoftBank, said it expects its next-generation vehicle to “comply with all applicable federal standards at the time of its rollout.” His current R2 vehicle with no pedals, no steering wheel, and room inside only for packages, was made with an NHTSA exemption.

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Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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