Investigators Demand More Info on Amazon’s Self-Driving Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into two accidents involving the Zoox self-driving cars

Graham Hope

June 3, 2024

2 Min Read
A black Toyota Highlander Zoox test vehicle in Seattle.

Federal regulators want more information from Zoox as part of an ongoing investigation into the Amazon subsidiary’s self-driving vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed in May that it was looking into two accidents involving Zoox AVs. 

On both occasions, a Toyota Highlander fitted with Zoox’s Automated Driving System braked unexpectedly, causing the SUVs to be rear-ended. 

A motorcyclist was involved in each instance, and the collisions happened in daylight hours, with the vehicles in autonomous mode.

Original documentation published about the investigation made clear that the NHTSA wanted to evaluate the Zoox ADS’ performance as well as its “behavior in crosswalks around vulnerable road users and in other similar rear-end collision scenarios.”

Now, in its effort to get to the bottom of what happened, the NHTSA has written to Zoox requesting a swathe of additional information, imposing a deadline of July 12 for its submission.

The letter, from the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), explains: “ODI is concerned that vehicles exhibiting unexpected rapid braking may increase the risk of crash, property damage, and injury. This risk is particularly acute to road users behind the Zoox vehicles who are unable to reasonably anticipate or react to the unexpected sudden braking.”

Related:Waymo, Zoox Self-Driving Vehicles Under Investigation

The correspondence details no fewer than 13 requests for info. These include: a breakdown of every state and jurisdiction where Zoox vehicles have operated, and the number of miles traveled; a breakdown of ‘hard braking’ events with or without a human on board; and Zoox’s summary of each incident and assessment of contributory factors.

Specifically, the ODI wants a timeline of events beginning 30 seconds prior to each incident, plus video evidence and “graphical renderings of measured trajectories and predicted paths for each road user” to be provided. 

It has also asked for details of testing and analysis carried out by Zoox in relation to the incidents and any modifications or updates that have resulted.

As has been the case previously when the NHTSA launches investigations of this nature and requests information, there will be penalties if Zoox does not comply, with the company potentially liable for $27,168 per violation per day, with a maximum of $135,828,178.

Zoox has not commented on the latest development, but when news of the investigation first broke it said: “Transparency and collaboration with regulators is of the utmost importance, and we remain committed to working closely with NHTSA to answer their questions.”

Related:Amazon Expands Zoox Self-Driving Taxi Testing

Separately, the NHTSA is also investigating Waymo’s self-driving taxis. An initial probe into 22 incidents involving AVs from the company has now been expanded to cover another nine cases.

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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