Zoox zagged where competitors zigged.
From the start, the self-driving startup pursued the creation of its own purpose-built autonomous vehicle for use in ride-hailing fleets rather than a cheaper and more direct path of retrofitting a conventional vehicle.
If the six-year journey required to develop its own vehicle initially puzzled some, the merits of such an approach are now more apparent.
Zoox introduced the four-passenger, fully electric vehicle last week. While it resembles a smaller version of the boxy people-haulers presented by the likes of Cruise, with its Origin, and the more spartan Navya shuttles, the Zoox vehicle's raison d'etre lies in innovations not detectable in its shape.
Foremost are the bidirectional driving capabilities and four-wheel steering, which allow the vehicle to maneuver through tight city streets and street-side parking spaces. Underneath the vehicle, a 133-kilowatt-hour battery provides enough power for 16 continuous hours of operation. In a robotaxi business where profitability is predicated upon utilization rates, that's essential.
On the safety front, Zoox provides equal crash protection for all occupants in the form of a reimagined airbag layout. Zoox says the vehicle meets or exceeds crash standards for all occupants, and that there are more than 100 proprietary safety innovations on the AV not found in conventional vehicles.
For Zoox CEO Aicha Evans, the finished product is worth the flack Zoox initially caught from both Silicon Valley and Detroit.