Amazon subsidiary Zoox receives permit to test driverless vehicles without a backup driver in California, one of only four granted such a licence to date
Amazon subsidiary Zoox has received a permit from California state authorities to test self-driving vehicles without a human backup driver, only the fourth company to receive such an authorisation.
The permit allows Zoox to operate two vehicles without a human driver, following on from an approval four years ago that allowed for testing with a backup driver, the state Department of Motor Vehicles said in a statement.
Some 60 companies have received permission to test self-driving cars with a human backup driver in the state, but only three others, Alphabet’s Waymo, Nuro and AutoX Technologies, have California permits to test cars without anyone behind the wheel.
Zoox’s permit covers tests on public roads within a designated area in San Mateo County, near its Foster City headquarters.
The tests are allowed under fair-weather conditions on streets with speed limits of up to 45 miles per hour.
Amazon bought Zoox in June as part of its plans around automated package delivery and ride-hailing.
The company also took part in Aurora Innovation’s $530 million (£409m) funding round in early 2019.
Aurora, founded by Chris Urmson, a former head of Google’s self-driving team, along with former Tesla Autopilot director Sterling Anderson and Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Drew Bagnell, is one of a number of companies looking to apply self-driving features to long-haul transport.
The company in July expanded its testing operations into Texas, in addition to tests in California and Pennsylvania.
Zoox and Aurora are expanding their testing even as some other companies are scaling back investments at a time of economic turbulence.
Waymo recently said it would need to rely on human drivers as co-pilots for the forseeable future, while General Motors’ Cruise last year postponed plans to make autonomous vehicles available for hailing rides.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has further added to uncertainty around the future of autonomous vehicle technology.
Amazon, however, has been one of the few companies to benefit from the pandemic, with sales skyrocketing.