Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Autonomous vehicle company Zoox to begin test driving in Austin

Courtesy of Zoox

Zoox, an autonomous car company owned by Amazon, announced June 5 that it will begin test-driving its vehicles in Austin in July

According to Zoox’s website, the company currently operates in San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas. In addition to Austin, the company also announced it will start operations in Miami, making the two cities its fourth and fifth public testing locations. During the testing phase, Zoox will deploy Toyota Highlanders near business and entertainment sectors to understand the city’s landscape. 

“Both Austin and Miami offer unique opportunities and valuable challenges that will help us continue to refine our driving,” the Zoox website states. “Austin has horizontal traffic lights, traffic lights hanging on wires, railway crossings and famous thunderstorms. … The insights we gain in these cities will be invaluable in every territory we operate in going forward.” 

Cruise, another autonomous vehicle company, stopped its services nationwide last year to “rebuild public trust” after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The NHTSA is also investigating Zoox and Waymo, another autonomous car company that started test driving in Austin in March, for accidents that involved each company’s vehicles. Zoox has yet to announce when services will officially launch in Austin, but Waymo plans to begin its ride-hailing services later this year. 

“The Waymo Driver is already improving road safety and increasing accessible and sustainable transportation options in the cities it operates,” Christopher Bonelli, Waymo’s product communications manager, said in an email. “We can’t wait to bring the numerous benefits of autonomous ride-hailing to Austinites soon.” 

Nathan Poling, a radio-television-film senior, said he rode in a Cruise car several times before operations stopped. He said that during one of his trips, the car avoided hitting a pedestrian who suddenly crossed the street. 

“I gave it props for that,” Poling said. “I know a lot of people talk about the crashes and all that, but I was in a circumstance where it actually did prevent a crash.” 

Nursing sophomore Erick Lara said he had a bad experience with Cruise when the car began to increase its speed and shake simultaneously during his ride. He said he would rather find a more reliable transportation alternative, such as Uber or Lyft. 

“After the experience, I figured that (self-driving cars) still function the same, and therefore, I haven’t gone back,” Lara said. “My experience would likely not change unless something on the mechanical side would be improved.” 

Poling said he doesn’t need autonomous vehicle services anymore because he now owns a car, but he said he would ride in one again. 

“After five to 10 minutes … it just felt like a normal drive for me,” Poling said. “It didn’t feel that scary at all. … After a while, you feel like you trust (the car) more and more and more.”

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