Tesla Motors has proven that a startup can turn futuristic automotive technology into reality by producing the popular Model S electric car. Now, another startup is trying to do the same thing with a different emerging technology: automation.
Zoox showed renderings of a self-driving car at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, and it recently revealed a few more details about the concept.
Although the name may sound like it belongs to an online dating service, Zoox calls itself a “Level 4 mobility company”, referring to the levels of vehicle autonomy sketched out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
As you might have guessed, Level 0 cars are completely manual, while Level 4 cars are completely autonomous. Zoox sees its customers not as drivers, but as “commanders” who give orders to an unseen robotic helmsman, but aren’t involved in the actual operation of their vehicles.
They’ll probably like that idea. Zoox says its concept, called Boz, is for “bosses.” Because people in power always respond well to having their egos stroked.
Like Tesla, Zoox promises a car that’s been designed from the ground up to be autonomous, which would ostensibly take full advantage of this new wrinkle in motoring.
“Even the assumption that a vehicle requires reverse can be challenged,” the company says.
While lack of reverse didn’t work out so well for the BMW Isetta, Zoox says its car’s lack of controls mean it can operate bidirectionally, like a modern railroad locomotive. In fact, the teardrop-shaped car is completely symmetrical, ostensibly giving it better aerodynamics.
In the cabin features a similarly radical design, with the seats facing inward so “commanders” and their passengers can more pleasantly converse. However, there’s no trunk, so they will also be riding with the day’s groceries.
It’s hard to say if the Zoox Boz will ever make it to showrooms, but it’s certainly a bold experiment in autonomous vehicle design. That being said, if you want to spend your morning commute texting or talking with other people, why not just take the train?