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Zoox reveals close-up of its autonomous robotaxi

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Zoox shared a close-up of its commercial electric robotaxi at the TechCrunch Mobility 2022 conference in San Mateo, California, on Wednesday.

The Amazon subsidiary’s four-passenger, fully autonomous vehicle features a white, cubelike body with large black sliding doors, floor-to-ceiling windows, beam-forming speakers to direct audio alerts to distracted pedestrians and a 60-watt USB-C port with enough power to charge a 15-inch MacBook.

The sleek, square silhouette lacks a front and rear end. Instead, the bidirectional robotaxi is symmetrical, with the same sloped face featuring cameras, lights, speakers and a large window on either side. “Internally, we call it a north side and a south side,” Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson said during an interview onstage.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The design features a sensor pod atop each corner of the robotaxi, which allows the vehicle to see in all directions. The corner architecture helps “see basically everything, including things behind things.”

“The shape of the vehicle is perfect for autonomous driving because each of those sensor pods has a 270-degree field of view,” Levinson said. “Because there’s one on each corner, not only can we see everything 360 degrees but we have an overlapping, redundant field of view that helps us see around things.”

The company revealed the robotaxi in December 2020 on a closed course in San Francisco and has been working toward making it safe and legal on public roads. Levinson declined to give a time frame, but said the company is “really close.” Zoox is already testing the vehicle on closed roads in Seattle, Las Vegas and Foster City, California, as well.

The sliding doors create a wide aperture that opens to a low floor, making it easy for passengers to enter and exit. Each side displays a strip of speakers above the headlights. The beam-forming speakers can shoot sound in any direction with a targeted focus, alerting specific distracted pedestrians with a ping that’s more polite than a honk, Levinson said.

“They’ll hear it and everybody else won’t.”

Each of the four seats features a seven-inch screen, comparable in size to an iPhone. The simple interface allows passengers to operate the vehicle’s four-zone climate control, check the route and change music.

The simplicity is designed to reduce visual stimuli. “It’s not about super-fancy 3D gaming,” Levinson said. “We’re not bombarding you with like screens and advertisements everywhere.”

The passenger experience “actually is quite boring after 30 seconds,” he added, “but that’s a good thing because people just want to get on with their lives, have a conversation, read a book, play with their iPhone or whatever they want to do.”

Each seat also comes with a wireless charging pad and a 60-watt USB-C port.

The ceiling features a pinpoint light display Zoox calls a “celestial headliner,” modeled after Rolls-Royce’s five-figure starry headliner option.

“It’s a little bit of our prestige feature,” Levinson said. “If we ever have to build a lower-cost version, that’s probably the first thing to go.”

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