Zoox Robotaxi Crashes Prompt US Safety Investigation

Zoox Robotaxi

Amazon’s autonomous robot taxi unit is under investigation by the US government’s highway safety agency after two of its vehicles braked suddenly and were hit from behind by motorcyclists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement on Monday that it will evaluate the automated driving system developed by Zoox. Both crashes occurred during the day and the motorcyclists suffered minor injuries. The agency confirmed that in both cases, each of the Amazon vehicles was operating in autonomous mode before the crashes.

The agency said the investigation would focus on the performance of the company’s automated driving systems during crashes. The agency will also be mindful of its behavior at pedestrian crossings around pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

According to the report, a message seeking comment was sent to Jukes on Monday.

Jukes reported the crashes as part of an order issued to automated vehicle manufacturers in 2021. Amazon acquired Jukes in June 2020. Analysts estimate the amount at more than $1 billion. In 2023, the Foster City, Calif.-based company said its unique-looking four-seat shuttle traveled a mile-long route between two Jukes buildings, transporting its employees on public roads.

While Amazon planned to launch an exclusive employee transportation service, analysts expect the company to ultimately leverage Jux’s system for autonomous delivery applications.

Jukes vehicles have no steering wheel or pedals. The interior of this carriage-type vehicle has two bench seats facing each other. It’s less than 3.7 meters (12 feet) long, about a foot shorter than a standard Mini Cooper, and can travel up to 56 kilometers per hour (35 miles per hour).

The Jukes were already under investigation by the NHTSA. In March 2022, the agency began investigating the company’s certification that its vehicles meet federal motor vehicle safety standards.

The agency said at the time that it would investigate whether Jukes used its own testing procedures to determine that certain federal standards did not apply because of the robotaxi’s unique specifications.

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