San Francisco, CA – Zoox, the Amazon-owned autonomous taxi company, is scheduled to reveal its first self-driving cars on Dec. 14. Spoilers: They look dorky as hell.
As flagged by The Next Web, various San Francisco residents saw what very much appears to be some of Zoox’s self-driving taxis outside the Fairmont Hotel on Mason Street this weekend—apparently being filmed for some kind of promotional material or ad. As TNW noted, Zoox has previously shown images of an uncompleted version of the vehicle, though this is the first time the taxi’s entire body is visible.
The Zoox vehicle has four interior seats facing each other in the middle with bus-style doors on the side, is reportedly designed to drive in either direction, and according to Forbes, may have four wheels with their own independent steering, which could allow it to rotate in place. Lidar sensors appear to be mounted outside the car to help with blind spots. Additionally, it looks like a henchman car introduced in an unlicensed, direct-to-DVD knockoff of Pixar’s Cars series.
Zoox has officially teased the design of the car in a Dec. 2 promotional video where its contours (but few details) are visible.
It’s not very aerodynamic looking, but that makes sense as it’s designed for urban mobility and shuttling people around cities, not long highway drives. Another possibility is that as a function of Zoox’s ownership, it could be deployed as a sort of short-range Amazon delivery vehicle.
Zoox has come a long way since 2013, when Gizmodo’s sister site Jalopnik referred to an early Zoox concept image as “vaporware horseshit,” a term the company subsequently used as an abbreviation for its development models. In the meantime, autonomous vehicle development—despite a flood of funding from Alphabet, Apple, Lyft, Uber, and Tesla, to name a few firms—has yet to usher in an automotive revolution and the sector has cooled off considerably.
Zoox may push the needle forward further. Amazon has already made heavy investments in robots like its Amazon Scout and Amazon Prime Air drones, and the company portrayed its $1.2 billion deal to acquire Zoox in June 2020 as positioning it to become a serious long-term contender in ride-hailing.