Amazon (AMZN.US)’s Zoox has reportedly become the first self-driving technology company to receive the highest five-star crash safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and applied for a permit to test drive in California. Unlike Alphabet’s (GOOGL.US) Waymo, Zoox is developing self-driving cabs from scratch, rather than using its technology to retrofit existing vehicles.
Amazon acquired the startup for $1.2 billion in 2020, and shortly thereafter Zoox unveiled the VH6, a self-driving car without a steering wheel that can accommodate four passengers and reach a top speed of 75 mph on the highway.
Zoox reportedly manufactures the VH6 at its Kato plant in Fremont, California, and has already produced dozens of cars.
Typically, companies are required to apply for special exemptions from U.S. regulators to deploy self-driving cars without steering wheels and brake pedals. Zoox has chosen a different path, opting to self-certify with the NHTSA so that it is not subject to limited production or production cycles. However, the company has also taken on a greater responsibility for the safety of its vehicles.
Jesse Levinson, Zoox co-founder and chief technology officer, said, “We’ve really invested extra time and resources, which essentially puts us in control of our own destiny.” “Even in the early days of this technology, we were able to compete and make money with companies like Uber (UBER.US) and Lyft Inc (LYFT.US), and we were very competitive on cost.”
It is understood that several companies have recently announced the news about self-driving cabs. Baidu (BIDU.US) unveiled its sixth-generation production unmanned vehicle, Apollo RT6, with vehicles set up in two modes with/without steering wheels, to be piloted in China in 2023. General Motors (GM.US) and Ford (F.US) applied to U.S. auto safety regulators to deploy steering wheel-less self-driving cars, among others.