Autonomous Amazon parcel transporter comes from Zoox

 

In the future, online orders could also be delivered by self-driving cars, and the driver’s job will change. The online retailer Amazon has acquired the startup Zoox for this purpose. Now the first autonomously driving Zoox robo-taxi has been presented.

Uli Baumann,

Bernd Conrad

15.12.2020

The supply chain from the shipping warehouse to the customer’s front door is a central component of the business model of online retailers. The global top dog Amazon in particular leaves hardly anything to chance here. In addition to external service providers such as DHL and Hermes, the company also uses its own delivery service in many markets, employing subcontractors.

It is hardly surprising that Amazon is also keeping a close eye on developments in the field of autonomous driving. After all, the same applies here as in long-distance transport: with self-driving transport vehicles, drivers could take over other logistics tasks on the road. The better use of time leads to faster processes and cost savings.

Not the first investment

Before a profit can be made, an investment must be made. The old investor adage applies to tech companies as well. Amazon has now made such an investment with the purchase of startup Zoox. Founded in 2014 in the U.S., the company specializes in developing electrically powered cars with autonomous driving capabilities. Now Zoox has unveiled its first autonomous driving robo-taxi.

Mobility cube has 16 hours of endurance

The robo-taxi drives in both directions.

It looks like what you’d imagine a robo-taxi to look like. The 3.63-meter-long and 1.94-meter-high cuboid places the wheels extremely close to the corners, relies on many glass surfaces and little design. Two two-seater benches face each other in the interior. There is no front or rear, because the Zoox robo-taxi drives in both directions. Four steerable wheels ensure maneuverability. The turning circle is said to be only 8.6 meters. A 133 kWh battery provides a good range. This should allow the robo-taxi to keep moving for up to 16 hours and to travel at speeds of up to 120 km/h. A maximum range or charging times are not mentioned.


Autonom nach Level 5

Zoox autonomes Shuttle

The complete environment is monitored.

The Zoox uses lidar, radar and camera systems to monitor its entire surroundings over a distance of 150 meters in all directions during the journey. The on-board computer, which has multiple redundancies, controls the fully automatic journey in accordance with autonomous Level 5. The passengers are protected by special airbag systems – regardless of where they are sitting and in which direction they are traveling. The robo-taxi itself warns its surroundings with flashing lights at each corner of the roof. LED light elements all around provide further visibility. Automatic sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle allow access. Passengers can charge their mobile devices on board, network with the cab and configure amenities such as lighting mood or music themselves.

The manufacturer is not disclosing when the Zoox robo-taxis will actually go into series production. Zoox is currently testing in the U.S. cities of Las Vegas, San Francisco and Foster City. It is also not known when Zoox owner Amazon will bring in the robo-taxis for package delivery.

However, as with its choice of courier and parcel services, the online retailer is taking a multi-foothold approach. Since 2019, Amazon has also had a stake in Zoox competitor Aurora; it also holds shares in electric car maker Rivian, where the shipping giant has ordered 100,000 electric vans.

Conclusion

Self-driving transport vehicles are likely to support long-distance and distribution supply chains for online retailers in the future. Drivers’ jobs will change, and they will be able to take on more tasks in managing and planning tours while on the road. Whether this will make things less stressful for them remains to be seen

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