Amazon’s Zoox tests self-driving cars in Seattle’s rainy climate

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  • Amazon-owned Zoox will begin testing driverless cars in Seattle, the company told Bloomberg.
  • Zoox’s chief technology officer said one of the main reasons was Seattle’s bad weather.
  • Zoox wants to “see how water impacts sensors” on cars, its co-founder said.

Amazon-owned robotaxi startup Zoox is set to begin testing self-driving cars on the streets of Seattle.

Zoox co-founder and chief technology officer Jesse Levinson told Bloomberg there were two reasons Zoox chose Seattle as their new proving ground. The first was being able to attract local engineering talent – Seattle was a “hotbed of IT people,” he said.

The second was the infamous Seattle bad weather.

“The Seattle weather is also a big reason to test the Zoox in bad weather and see how the water affects the sensors,” said Levinson.

In the past, some autonomous driving systems have been shown to be disturbed by rain and snow.

Instead of deploying its robotaxis, which has yet to appear in the wild, Zoox will be sending specially equipped Toyota Highlanders to Seattle. The cars will be fitted with the company’s sensors and autonomous driving software.

“A calm sea never makes a skilled sailor, and it’s exactly the same principle for our technology,” Kai Wang, director of prediction at Zoox, told The Verge.

“The challenges of the Seattle area will allow us to refine our software stack and ultimately improve the behavior of our vehicles,” he added.

Seattle is also the hometown of Zoox’s parent company, Amazon, which bought Zoox in June 2020 for $ 1.2 billion.

Levinson told Bloomberg that while Zoox was “very independent” from Amazon, “we can’t wait to hang out with people there.”

Zoox would also set up its own office in Seattle, according to Bloomberg.

Zoox has already tested its technology on roads in California and Las Vegas. Last week, he posted footage of one of his driverless cars driving six lanes in downtown Las Vegas.


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