Amazon Zoox Self-Driving Taxi to Test in Miami, Austin

While the company is developing its own purpose-built autonomous vehicle, the test vehicles will be the company’s retro-fitted Toyota Highlander SUVs

Graham Hope

June 7, 2024

3 Min Read
An Amazon Amazon’s self-driving arm Zoox

Amazon’s self-driving arm Zoox has confirmed it is to start testing in two new cities.

The addition of Miami, Florida and Austin, Texas, brings the total number of locations that Zoox is active in to five.

Zoox started testing in San Francisco, California, in 2018, before moving into Las Vegas, Nevada in 2019. Seattle, Washington was then incorporated into the program in 2021.

Separately, the company has also conducted road tests on public roads around its headquarters in Foster City, south of San Francisco.

Although the company is developing its own purpose-built autonomous vehicle – which it has tested both in Foster City and Vegas without a driver – it will be the company’s retro-fitted Toyota Highlander SUVs that are deployed in Miami and Austin.

After collecting mapping data, the Highlanders will be sent out with safety drivers “in small areas near the business and entertainment districts of the two cities.”

According to Zoox, this will enable the company to gather valuable insights and feedback, although it has not yet revealed how many cars will be involved, and exactly how widespread the coverage will be. As testing progresses, the operational area will expand incrementally as its AI gets increasingly familiar with the surroundings.

Related:Amazon Self-Driving Cars Headed to Seattle

The locations also present specific challenges, the company says. 

In Austin, the autonomous cars will have to deal with horizontal traffic lights, railway crossings and thunderstorms. Miami, meanwhile, has traffic lights suspended diagonally across intersections.

The insights gained will be applied as the company continues to scale across America.

“We’re laying the foundations for our autonomous ride-hailing service in new cities across the U.S.,” said Ron Thaniel, senior director. “Austin and Miami offer key learning opportunities that will support the continued growth and refinement of our testing and service.”

However, Zoox is keen to stress that at this stage, it will only be conducting testing in the cities, with no plans for public rides yet. Las Vegas and San Francisco remain its targets for commercial operations, although other locations are actively being explored.

The news comes at a time when the self-driving taxi industry is under intense scrutiny. Zoox is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following two accidents where its retro-fitted Highlanders were rear-ended by motorcycles after braking unexpectedly.

The NHTSA is also looking at Waymo’s tech after a number of incidents where its vehicles exhibited “unexpected behavior.”

Related:Amazon’s Robotaxi Being Tested on Public Roads

Meanwhile, Cruise – the company that arguably sparked the increased scrutiny after its much-criticized response to an accident in San Francisco in October – is continuing its slow comeback. The company confirmed it is set to resume manual testing in Dallas, Texas, having restarted autonomous operations in Phoenix, Arizona.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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