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The Street
The Street
Jena Greene

Amazon Gains a Huge Step Up On Uber, Tesla

Amazon is gaining ground in the autonomous vehicle (AV) race. 

The tech and retail giant, founded in Bellevue, Wash., is not-so-slowly making inroads in California, where fellow AV rivals Uber (UBER), Tesla (TSLA), Alphabet's Google (GOOGL) and General Motors (GM) are working on similar capabilities with varying degrees of success. 

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Amazon's self-driving service is a venture called Zoox. Amazon bought the company for about $1 billion in 2020 and has been working on a customized, autonomous electric taxi ever since.

Zoox Makes Progress Toward Autonomous Driving

And in February 2022, Zoox announced it hit a key milestone in the race to autonomous driving and transportation -- testing the feature on public roads.

"Over the weekend, we hit the road!" the Zoox website wrote in a post. "Our robotaxi’s first voyage on open public roads. Our employees’ first taste of their new autonomous shuttle service, with dozens of team members enjoying the experience. The first time in history a purpose-built robotaxi—without any manual controls—drove autonomously with passengers. No steering wheel. No pedals. An experience built for riders, not drivers."

The vehicle shuttled around employees following approval from the California DMV last week. 

"Getting to be the world’s first passenger in a robotaxi with no manual controls on open public roads, along with Aicha this past Saturday, was one of the highlights of my life," Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson said. "But what made me happiest was seeing the beaming smiles on our team members when they completed their rides. I can’t wait for everyone to experience that magic."

Other Rivals Are Trying Similar Ventures

Tesla, Uber, Google, and GM are among the companies trying to capture similar AV capabilities. Uber is keen on launching an autonomous driver service sometime in 2023, Google has dumped over $1 billion into its AV company Waymo, GM's Cruise unit continues to make progress in its attempt to shuttle people around without drivers, and Tesla currently has assisted driving and autopilot features which it hopes will ultimately turn into fully autonomous driving capabilities. 

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