Zoox, the autonomous driving startup acquired by Amazon, is to begin testing its L3 autonomous vehicles in Seattle, Washington. The company has been testing in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the San Francisco Bay Area for more than four years.
It says that running in a new city will give its vehicles and AI the chance to be exposed to new conditions including varied weather and infrastructure, different by-laws, and a different driving culture. These challenges will help it iterate hardware and software, increasing their capabilities.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, and it’s the exact same principle for our technology,” said Kai Wang, director of prediction at Zoox. “The challenges of the Seattle area will let us hone our software stack and ultimately improve the behavior of our vehicles.”
Zoox’s autonomous fleet is made up of all-wheel drive Toyota Highlanders outfitted with its latest software stack and will use safety drivers. Notably, it employs the same sensor architecture across its L3 and L5 fleets, which means the data gathered in the Seattle area will be directly applicable to the company’s whole fleet.
The data collected in the Seattle will also be crucial for the company’s Calibration, Localization, and Mapping, Simultaneously (CLAMS) and Zoox Road Network (ZRN) teams, which will start creating a 3D map of the city and populating it with road features such as cycle lanes, speed limits, traffic lights, and so on. When L5 vehicles are eventually deployed in the city, they’ll have a full working knowledge of their environment from day one.
“We’re excited to be testing in Seattle. The data we’re gathering will be invaluable for the continued development of our AI stack,” concluded Jesse Levinson, CTO and co-founder of Zoox. The company is also planning to open an office in the Seattle area in 2022, to grow its base of operations and facilities.