Amazon’s self-driving car startup is moving into 2 new cities as regulators probe incidents

Amazon’s self-driving car startup is moving into 2 new cities as regulators probe incidents

Amazon-owned Zoox, a self-driving vehicle startup, is preparing to test its cars on the streets of two new cities, marking its third expansion this year.

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The company said Wednesday it will “soon” begin testing its autonomous vehicles (AVs) in Miami and Austin, where rivals’ cars have been testing for months. This will make five cities where Zoox tests its vehicles; it currently operates its cars in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

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

Zoox is still targeting a commercial launch in Las Vegas and San Francisco. But it is exploring “several cities” as options for additional commercial offerings.

Each city offers its own valuable insights for Zoox. Austin’s horizontal traffic lights, railway crossings and “famous thunderstorms” can offer unique data to train its software, Zoox said. Miami offers a different challenge and environment, with Zoox pointing to traffic lights that hang diagonally across intersections.

Zoox, which started its first tests in 2018, will be playing catch-up to rivals already established in those cities.

Austin already has automated vehicles from Google’s Waymo and Volkswagen on its roads. Cruise, a General Motors-owned startup, operated AVs in Austin before it pulled back operations last October after a series of incidents. Cruise on Monday began testing its cars with manual drivers in Houston.

Texas has become a major playground for autonomous vehicle startups, hosting at least 15 companies as of November. Texas has also partnered with Cavnue to pilot the U.S.’s first autonomous freight corridor on a stretch of Texas State Highway 130 north of Austin.

Miami is no slouch either. Waymo’s cars are being tested in the city, while both Cruise and Mobileye have tested their technology on its streets. May Mobility’s AVs provide transportation to the Civic Center and Dadeland areas as part of a collaboration with transit tech provider Via and the city’s department of transportation.

Zoox is also expanding under the shadow of a federal probe launched by U.S. auto safety regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received reports of two incidents in which Zoox’s vehicles suddenly braked, leading to rear-end collisions that caused caused minor injuries. The regulator has requested a slew of information from Zoox by July 12.

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