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Amazon-owned Zoox heads to Seattle for autonomous car tests

The startup wants to test its self-driving car prototypes in an environment full of rain, snow and one-way streets.

Zoox Seattle

Zoox is hitting the road.

Zoox

Seattle, here comes Zoox. The Amazon-owned autonomous car startup will begin testing its self-driving car prototypes in the city in the coming months. Zoox also announced plans for a Seattle-area office in 2022 to go with the site, expanding its office footprint from Las Vegas and the Bay Area.

Driving is not the same from state to state, or even city to city, and so the idea behind this expansion, according to the announcement, is to continue exposing Zoox's self-driving car prototypes to new environments: "Testing in a new city gives our vehicle and AI the chance to experience fresh challenges, including different weather and infrastructure, different by-laws, and a different driving culture. These challenges will help us iterate our hardware and software, ultimately broadening the capabilities of Zoox."

Zoox prototypes will have quite the challenge on their hands. The company said it specifically developed new "special hardware into our sensor architecture" to counter debris and rain for the area.

At the end of the day, these prototypes will be massive data collection machines. The learnings will then go toward further improving Zoox's autonomous driver.

To start, the company will deploy a "small number" of Level 3 autonomous vehicles, based on Toyota Highlander SUVs. From there, data will feed into Level 5 prototypes with 3D maps, calibration and more. Basically, the L5 prototypes will have (hopefully) everything they need to be successful when they're ready.