Zoox: The Future of Robot Taxis
Driverless vehicles are making their way onto America’s roadways. The next logical step? Robot taxis. Instead of Uber or Lyft, in the near future, humans will be able to summon a robot taxi to pick them up. Zoox may be a pioneer in this field.
If you want to check out this technology for yourself, you can do so for a cool $100 million. You can get a key and look inside a wooden crate. You will see a black robot that looks like two Mini Coopers welded together. Inside, two benches face each other. There is no steering wheel or dashboard.
While it may sound promising, it is unknown what the future will hold for Zoox. The robot taxi may be wildly popular or it could be a flop. Time will tell.
But we do know that Zoox is doing things differently. Instead of adding driverless technology to current vehicles, they have built an autonomous vehicle from the ground up. Each section of the vehicle will have its own battery pack, brakes, and motor for better control. The Zoox robot taxis are 100 percent electric. They are also bidirectional. It communicates with pedestrians through the use of noises. It creates unique messages on its windows for riders.
According to its founders, Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson, Zoox will be the safest vehicle on the road. That’s because Zoox cars are tested in San Francisco, one of the toughest places to drive. Plus, with simulated testing and real-world scenarios, Zoox vehicles will have enough confidence to navigate the roadways by their launch date of 2020.
The Technology Involved
At the moment, Zoox is using Toyota SUVs loaded with computer screens. These are all connected to the main computer via various cables. These cables serve the purpose of transmitting the various amounts of data generated by cameras and sensors, including radar and lidar.
You may have heard of radar, but what exactly is lidar? Known as light detection and ranging, lidar was first used for scientific applications, particularly topography and weather. But since lidar uses lasers and light beams, it works well for automotive purposes as well. It can be placed on top of cars to create 3D maps that help the vehicle navigate on the various roadways. With lidar, sensors, and cameras, these driverless vehicles can see without the need for a human driver.