Amazon-owned Zoox eyes robotaxi field with spacious bespoke model

FREMONT, Calif. — Amazon-owned self-driving tech developer Zoox is getting ready to join a field of companies carrying passengers in autonomous vehicles.

While the company isn’t saying when it will begin commercial operations — “soon,” says a co-founder — it may be the first to design and deploy a bespoke robotaxi for operations on U.S. public roads.

As the company readies for operations, it previewed its VH6 vehicle on the streets of Silicon Valley last week.

The Foster City, Calif.-based company is driving into an increasingly crowded field.

Waymo introduced limited service in the Phoenix area in 2017 and Motional partnered with Lyft to offer rides in its AV in Las Vegas the following year. Cruise launched a ride-sharing service in San Francisco this year, while Argo has started testing its AVs in Miami in preparation for a partnership with Lyft this year. Almost all except Zoox have partnerships for package delivery.

While most robotaxi developers are relying on retrofitting existing production vehicles, Zoox, which plans initial markets in San Francisco and Las Vegas, is mirroring the strategy of General Motors-backed Cruise and plans to build its own vehicles at a plant in Fremont, Calif., within sight of Tesla’s factory, designed to carry human passengers.

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