Amazon to start Zoox robotaxi testing in Austin and Miami

Amazon’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, Zoox, has expanded its robotaxi testing locations to include the cities of Austin and Miami.

The two cities in Texas and Florida will become the fourth and fifth public testing locations for Zoox, which was founded in 2014 and acquired by Amazon in 2020. The company, based in Foster City, California, first started testing its robotaxi service in San Francisco in 2018, followed by Las Vegas in 2019 and Seattle in 2021.

Zoox said it would start testing in Austin and Miami with a mapping mission before deploying a fleet of Toyota Highlanders retrofitted into self-driving vehicles. Safety drivers will oversee the cars, and the initial deployment will focus on small areas near the business and entertainment district.

The company said that it would not deploy its purpose-built robotaxi vehicles or offer public rides in Austin or Miami at this stage. It said it was focusing on San Francisco and Las Vegas as its first commercial markets but added that “several cities” could follow after the initial launch. Zoox

Testing vehicle used by Zoox. Image by Shutterstock

“We’re laying the foundations for our autonomous ride-hailing service in new cities across the US. Austin and Miami offer key learning opportunities that will support the continued growth and refinement of our testing and service,” said Ron Thaniel, senior director of policy and regulatory affairs at Zoox.

Last year, the rectangular-shaped Zoox robotaxi passed its first public test run by safely shuttling four Amazon employees from one company location to another on the suburban streets of Silicon Valley.

Turning public roads into testing grounds for the technology has not been without its setbacks for Zoox and its main competitors in the US.

In May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it was investigating two incidents involving self-driving Toyota Highlanders operated by Zoox. The agency also opened a probe against Waymo, owned by Google parent Alphabet, regarding 31 incidents involving its self-driving vehicles.

And GM-owned Cruise is under investigation by several federal agencies for a crash last year that left a pedestrian seriously injured.