The Zoox Carriage

Yesterday, Zoox unveiled its long-awaited vehicle. It doesn’t yet have a name (the Zoox website lists it simply as, “VEHICLE”), although the press describes it as a “carriage”, at least in form factor. It resembles the Cruise Origin more than a little bit, including the glass elevator-style doors.

Zoox has done some amazing technical work with this vehicle. Most notably, the vehicle supposedly moves it not only forward and backward, like a normal car, but also side-to-side, like a dolley.

That said, I am a little skeptical about the utility of a four-person passenger vehicle as the true form factor for the self-driving future. We’re used to four-person vehicles now because consumers have to purchase cars that fill lowest-common-denominator needs. In a transportation-as-a-service world, though, I suspect we’ll all want to travel in our own personal vehicles.

Help Wanted

It’s been a tough 18 months for self-driving cars. The enthusiasm (and cash) that poured into the industry from 2016 to 2018 has dampened as everyone realizes Level 4 driverless robotaxis are not immediately around the corner.

But companies are still making progress and hiring.

VentureBeat reports that Aurora now boasts 500 employees (including interns!). CEO Chris Urmson says, “With the industry shakeup right now, there’s a lot of new talent on the market, an opportunity we intend to take full advantage of.”

Good to read!

Meanwhile, Zoox had to lay off some employees and might be purchased by Amazon. In a twist, Cruise is taking advantage of the uncertainty at Zoox to poach engineers!

Cruise has laid off employees recently, as well, all though supposedly this was in the interest of focusing on engineering, which would align with the Zoox hires.

Reuters reports that Cruise founder and CTO Kyle Vogt sent quite an email to Zoox engineers:

“Cruise is willing to recognize the full value of the rewards you’ve earned at Zoox — something that is very unlikely to occur via an acquisition in this environment.”

Companies are still competing for great talent!