Zoox, the autonomous vehicle startup acquired last year by Amazon, is expanding to Seattle. The company says that it plans to open an engineering office and operations facility in 2022, which will act as a base for its autonomous vehicle testing,
The company, which currently employs more than 1,300 people, tests its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Foster City, California, close to its headquarters. It started testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads in Las Vegas in 2019.
The operations facility and engineering office will be staffed mostly by new employees, according to co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson. The exact number of employees in Seattle has not been disclosed, but Levinson says that it is part of the company’s goal to create 450 new jobs in 2021.
While Zoox is setting up operations in the city where Amazon is based, Levinson told news service TechCrunch that the two companies still operate separately, and the Zoox office and operations hub will not be housed on the Amazon campus. Zoox will, however, work with Amazon “on various collaborations in the future”.
According to Levinson, Zoox has been eyeing Seattle as a test site for years, and it even completed a small pilot in the city in late 2019. He cites the frequency of rain in the area as one the primary reasons: “For better or for worse, it doesn’t rain very much in San Francisco and rains even less than Las Vegas,” he explains. “We want an ODD (operational design domain) that has a significant amount of rain and a frequent amount of rain for our testing.”
Zoox has developed some advanced weather proofing, including what Levinson describes as “active rain mitigation” for its sensors. “We’re very excited about that and we want to test it and validate it in the rain; Seattle is a great place for that,” he adds.