Amazon Robotaxi Brand Faces Investigation Over Crashes With Motorcycles

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Key Takeaways

  • The NHTSA is investigating Amazon's Zoox after two robotaxi collisions with motorcycles.
  • The bikes rear-ended the self-driving cars in the daytime.
  • This comes as Cruise is only just returning to roads following a pedestrian collision.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a preliminary investigation into Amazon robotaxi company Zoox after reports of two crashes involving motorcycles.

In both cases, motorcyclists rear-ended Zoox’s Toyota Highlander test vehicles after the cars suddenly applied their brakes. Both testers were operating in self-driving mode during the daytime, and within the intended limits of their autonomous systems.

The investigation will look into the safety of about 500 of the Amazon-owned robotaxi models. This doesn’t cover Zoox’s custom autonomous vehicles.

A Zoox spokesperson told Techopedia the company was “currently reviewing” the NHTSA investigation and didn’t have more to share. The company stated that cooperation and transparency were of “utmost importance,” and that it would work with the agency to answer questions.

The NHTSA launched a 2023 investigation into claims the Amazon brand’s robotaxi met federal safety standards without receiving a government exemption.

The case came just weeks after GM’s Cruise resumed testing after halting its driverless taxi service in October last year. California banned Cruise from using vehicles after one of them struck and injured a pedestrian in San Francisco. The return is limited to manual driving in Phoenix, Arizona, and doesn’t include passengers.

It also came several weeks before Tesla’s planned robotaxi announcement on August 8th. Elon Musk has long discussed the feature, including the possibility that owners could make money by letting their cars pick up passengers in spare hours.

Zoox, Cruise, and others have maintained that their autonomous cars are safer than human-driven equivalents. They’re theoretically less prone to errors and will strictly obey rules. True or not, that hasn’t alleviated concerns that cars might crash due to bugs or poor designs.

While states like Arizona, California, and Nevada have welcomed self-driving cars, including paid passenger service, other states have been cautious. The incidents with Amazon robotaxi operations may draw further scrutiny.

Update 5/15 9:44AM ET: The article previously stated that Zoox’s custom robotaxi only started driving in March. It’s been in use since February 2023; in March this year, the company expanded operations to include nighttime driving, light rain driving, and higher speeds. We’ve updated the story accordingly.