Amazon’s Zoox robotaxis will start driving faster, farther and at night in Las Vegas

Zoox self-driving expansion Las Vegas’s self-driving car unit, Zoox, attempts to keep up with rival Waymo by expanding its vehicle testing in California and Nevada to include a larger region, higher speeds, and nighttime driving.

The modifications, revealed on Thursday, will affect Zoox’s fleet of vehicles, which it developed and constructed itself. Those look like toaster ovens on wheels and lack manual controls inside, such as steering wheels, pedals, and gear shifters. Zoox also operates modified self-driving Toyota Highlanders in Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Foster City, California.

The measures are minor compared to Alphabet’s Waymo, which revealed this week plans to launch a taxi service in Los Angeles and its existing San Francisco and Phoenix markets. Waymo already transports passengers in retrofitted autonomous Jaguars.

Zoox said it will allow its specially adapted vehicles to travel up to 45 miles per hour (72 kph) from 35 mph. It also increased the Las Vegas area, allowing cars to drive five miles instead of one mile.

The Zoox vehicles will also travel in mild rain and at night, which the business claims is crucial for gathering more data. Zoox still needs to provide a timetable for when it expects its fully autonomous vehicles to be shared.

Rival General Motors’ Cruise ceased testing of its robotaxis last year after regulators accused executives of withholding information from an accident in San Francisco in which a Cruise vehicle struck and dragged a woman about 20 feet (6.1 m) after she was hit by a human-driven car.

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