Zoox – a new car design for autonomous vehicles

There was no car to drive from Zoox at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show, but Tim Kentley-Klay, founder, CEO and visionary of Zoox told Lou Ann Hammond, CEO, Driving the Nation, that the human driver is the biggest danger in autonomous vehicles. Kentley-Klay has met with Google about designing self-driving cars. Usually that much credence isn’t given to a website with a drawing, but in this high-tech world we live in car manufacturers are in a transportation paradigm, a driving dichotomy.

Has Kentley-Klay talked to any OEMs about his car design?

I met up with Kentley-Klay at the 2018 Washington Auto Show where he was a witness in the Senate Committee hearings. Here is his speech;

January 24, 2018
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Driving Automotive Innovation and Federal Policies
Testimony of Tim Kentley-Klay, co-Founder, and CEO, Zoox
Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, Senators:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. When I arrived in the U.S.
from Australia just over three years ago, Zoox was but a dream, so it is indeed an honor
to be here before you and among respected business leaders.

Today, I will share with you our vision and the journey we are on at Zoox; our
perspective on the step-change safety opportunity offered by autonomous technology in
mobility; and finally, the opportunity we have as a country to set the best policy
foundation on which build this technology and get it on the road.

The Zoox Vision

My journey with autonomous mobility began in 2012, while in Melbourne, Australia,
watching from afar what Google was doing: attempting to develop a “self-driving car.”
My insight at the time was that such a technology is about much more than just
incremental adaptation to the automobile. This technology, correctly understood, is going
to transform how we move everyone and everything on this planet.

To understand what is about to happen, let’s take a step back. The previous mobility age,
before the automobile, was, of course, the horse and carriage. We were in that age for
around 6,000 years. It was around 4,000 BC that we domesticated the horse, put the axle
on the wheel, and invented coach building. So what allowed the transition from that
mobility age to the next?

Arguably, it was the invention of the internal combustion engine. We achieved a
technology level on this planet where we could mechanize the horse’s biomechanical
power. The correct implementation of that invention was not to put the engine in the
coach and keep the horse. People actually tried that, but it didn’t work particularly well.
The right application was to remove the horse—and change the architecture of the coach,
quite radically, to get to a design such as the Model-T Ford in 1908. This
transformation took us into the age of the automobile, an age we have been in for 130
years.

The belief we hold at Zoox is that A.I. in mobility will take us from the age of the automobile into the next mobility age. And we think that’s the age of robotics—fully
automated transportation. Thus, Zoox was founded to ask the questions: what would the
full realization of AI and mobility be? Can we imagine that? And if we can, let’s build it
not in ten years, but today.

At Zoox, we have gone from a founding vision three and a half years ago, to augmenting
cars to work as autonomous vehicles driving in downtown San Francisco, during the day, during the night, and in heavy rain. We are also driving autonomously on highways. In
short, Zoox is driving autonomously a complete set of urban road and weather features,
today.

Beyond this, because we believe that the full realization of this technology is not
retrofitted cars, we are also creating a vehicle from the ground-up—without traditional
controls—that’s purpose-built for the needs of our cities today and tomorrow.
This represents a phenomenal effort by a highly interdisciplinary and fast growing team
of over 375, with expertise ranging across the fields of artificial intelligence, product
design, safety, and vehicle engineering. The team comes from organizations such as
Google, Tesla, Apple, Ferrari, NVIDIA, NASA, and NHTSA, along with academic institutions such as Stanford, MIT, Oxford, Princeton, and Carnegie Mellon.

The Safety Opportunity: Our Philosophy at Zoox

The very real safety opportunity that autonomous mobility will offer drives our work every day at Zoox. Autonomous technology holds out the promise of a whole new safety
paradigm: One that allows us to both prevent crashes in the first place and protect
occupants and vulnerable road users in superior ways if a crash does occur.
The number of people killed as a result of car crashes in 2016 went up 6% from the year prior. That number represents nearly two-thousand more loved ones lost. In fact, car
crashes are the leading cause of death for young people in the U.S. This should be
unacceptable to us: We should pursue autonomous technologies, which hold the potential
to eliminate most crashes.

Indeed, in our view, it is only autonomous mobility that offers the real opportunity to
make irrelevant the safety risks associated with driver impairment and error.

The Policy Opportunity

Finally, with these paradigm shifts in both mobility and safety innovation, what then is
the policy opportunity? What is the government opportunity?

First, it is important to recognize that we are in the midst of a great race. Other countries are sprinting to harness and deploy this technology. And I know I certainly could not
have started and scaled Zoox as fast as I have in any other country, and the United States
has welcomed me with open arms. I am grateful for that and keen to maintain our
competitive edge here.

The signals we send to entrepreneurs and innovators through our regulatory system are
vitally important to meet that end. To date—and this brings me to my second point—the
posture of both the Administration and this Congress has been to create a level playing
field to let the innovators innovate. That must continue. Your AV START Act, as well as
the SELF DRIVE Act, capture these principles, assert the federal government’s
preemptive role over state legislation, and encourage innovation in a technology-neutral way, without picking winners. The legislation making its way through Congress, is in our
view, the right approach for this moment.

Third, it is important to recognize that data-driven best practices must precede standard setting.

We are still in the very early stages of this paradigm shift, so it is important that
responsible developers have the freedom to develop and generate the data needed for best
practices and eventually relevant regulatory policies. I would note that this emerging
industry has a strong safety record. In fact, there has been no injury caused by any fully
autonomous vehicle developer to date. As such we should be encouraged to continue
advancing our development while acting at all times responsibly.
Finally, the Zoox journey is all about connecting people and places, safely, in an
environmentally conscious way, and with a sense of wonder. Autonomous mobility sits
on the vanguard of possible. As the innovators, we look forward to working with the
regulators to create, with verve, the next era in mobility.
Thank you.
-END-

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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  1. […] car companies have come up with radical visions of autonomous vehicles, including ZOOX, an Australian company that designed an autonomous vehicle with airbags on the outside of the […]

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