But it turns out it’s tough to keep a secret in public, even on streets emptied by the pandemic. The car was photographed outside the Fairmont San Francisco hotel this weekend as crews captured footage.
At least two vehicles were on the scene, looking at the background. They sported the “ZOOX” logo and license plate, and the “push me, pull you” configuration expected to be a signature element of the Zoox design. The vehicle operates the same in either direction, with no reverse, effectively. The high cost of developing the vehicle with this approach contributed to a financial crunch at the company that is reported to have precipitated the sale to Amazon.
Passengers face each other, and there’s no driver’s seat because there’s no driver. Based on the appearance, it might look like the vehicle could deliver packages. That could still be a possibility in the future, potentially in a hybrid scenario, delivering both packages and people.
But in announcing the acquisition, Amazon made it clear that Zoox would be sticking to its plan to create autonomous passenger vehicles, at least at first.
That puts the Seattle company in direct competition with Uber and Lyft as the ride-hailing giants develop their own autonomous vehicles. The acquisition of Zoox is the latest addition to Amazon’s autonomous robotic fleet, along with its drones, warehouse bots, and Scout mini delivery vehicles.