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Amazon-Owned Zoox Expands Operation of Autonomous Cars in Las Vegas

Amazon-owned autonomous car company Zoox has expanded the area in which its robotaxis are operating.

The company is also operating the vehicles at faster speeds, in light rain and at night, Zoox said in a Thursday (March 14) update.

“Deploying our robotaxi in a larger geofence is a big milestone for Zoox,” the company said in the update. “Operating autonomously at higher speeds, with required lane changes, in light rain, and at night are key achievements too — they’re complex scenarios that are required to operate our service.”

Zoox first began operating its driverless vehicles on public roads in 2023, in Foster City, California, and Las Vegas. Since then, it has been testing them in preparation for a planned commercial launch, according to the update.

With the latest update, the firm has expanded the boundary within which it operates the vehicles in Las Vegas. It’s now operating within a larger, five-mile radius of the company’s headquarters, the update said.

“Driving in these larger areas exposes our robotaxis to the busiest conditions they’ve ever encountered and provides invaluable data and learnings as we continue to scale,” Zoox said in the update.

In both Las Vegas and Foster City, the company has boosted the speed limit of the vehicles from the previous 35 mph to 45 mph. It also now operates in light rain and at night, according to the update.

Each of these moves has been enabled by training the machine learning (ML) models that operate the vehicles, using data from both the company’s test fleet and its robotaxis, per the update.

“As always, safety is foundational to Zoox, so we’ll continue to be measured and thoughtful in our approach to commercialization,” the company said in the update. “These critical updates bring us closer to safely and confidently offering Zoox to the public.”

Amazon acquired Zoox in June 2020 for a reported $1.2 billion.

In December 2020, Zoox unveiled a self-driving electric taxi that it said was built for ride-hailing and designed for dense, urban environments. The vehicle included four seats but no steering wheel.

The firm announced in June 2023 that it was operating the driverless robotaxi in Las Vegas, transporting Zoox employees on a one-mile loop on public roads near the company’s headquarters. It began operating in Foster City about five months earlier.