The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Zoox Unveils New Robotaxi; Walmart Plans Driverless Deliveries In 2021; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | December 17, 2020

Zoox Unveils New Robotaxi
On Monday, Zoox revealed its new electric driverless vehicle, with no steering wheel or pedals, that it anticipates will one day be used as a robotaxi and be summoned with an app. Zoox CEO Aicha Evans told reporters that the vehicle is an important milestone in the company’s journey toward commercialization. “As we see the alarming statistics around carbon emissions and traffic accidents, it’s more important than ever that we build a sustainable, safe solution that allows riders to get from point A to point B,” she said.

Industry watchers have noted the design of the latest autonomous vehicles, such as the Cruise Origin, follow similar principles of form and function – reflecting the industry’s belief that the first autonomous vehicles will be shared electric shuttles used to ferry people around cities, similar to Uber Pool. “We’ve made the decision to maximize the interior space and minimize the exterior space,” said Jesse Levinson, Zoox’s cofounder and chief technology officer.

Motional And Lyft Target 2023 For Robotaxi Service
Motional, the $4 billion Aptiv-Hyundai joint venture, announced this week that it plans to launch fully driverless robotaxi services in major U.S. cities in 2023 using the Lyft ride-hailing network. Although no details have been provided on which cities it will offer service in, or just how big these fleets will be, Motional has testing operations in Boston, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh. In addition, TechCrunch reported that Motional did indicate that this robotaxi service partnership with Lyft will extend beyond the initial launch cities. The announcement follows Nevada’s approval last month to allow Motional to test fully driverless vehicles without a human safety driver behind the wheel on public roads in the state.

Walmart To Use Driverless Trucks For Deliveries
Walmart announced this week that it will begin fully driverless deliveries in Arkansas in 2021, with autonomous box trucks from AV startup Gatik. The announcement comes after an 18-month delivery pilot between Gatik and Walmart, with trucks operating on a two-mile route between a “dark store” (a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public) and a nearby Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas. In those 18 months, The Verge reports that the vehicles have racked up 70,000 miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver.

“Our trials with Gatik are just two of many use cases we’re testing with autonomous vehicles, and we’re excited to continue learning how we might incorporate them in a delivery ecosystem,” said Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior VP of customer product. The announcement is another step forward for Gatik, which recently partnered with Loblaw retailers for Canada’s first autonomous delivery fleet.