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After 2 rear-end crashes, Amazon's self-driving robotaxi under probe

Robert Besser
15 May 2024

SAN FRANCISCO, California: After two of its vehicles were rear-ended by motorcyclists after breaking suddenly, Amazon's self-driving robotaxi unit is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Both crashes, one in San Francisco and the other in Spring Valley, Nevada, involved Toyota Highlander SUVs using autonomous driving technology.

In documents posted on its website on Monday, the U.S. regulator said it would evaluate Zoox's automated driving system.

The incidents happened during the day, and each Amazon vehicle was operating in autonomous mode before the crashes, the agency added. It noted that its investigation will focus on the performance of the company's automated driving system during the crashes and how it behaves in crosswalks around pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Zoox stressed that it is committed to working with NHTSA to answer its questions, stating, "Transparency and collaboration with regulators are of the utmost importance."

It added that the vehicles had human safety drivers on board.

Foster City, California-based Zoox, acquired by Amazon in 2020 for a reported US$1 billion, reported the crashes per an order to automated vehicle companies issued in 2021.

In 2023, the company said one of its funky-looking four-person shuttles autonomously carried employees on public roads on a mile-long route between two Zoox buildings.

Zoox shuttles, which do not have steering wheels or pedals, can travel up to 75 mph, but the company said that on public roads, they only travel up to 35 mph.

In March 2022, the NHTSA began looking into Zoox's certification that its vehicle met federal safety standards for motor vehicles.

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