Zoox, another driverless car on the roads of California

It is the first startup to obtain authorization from the US government to test a car without a driver. What it is doing is covered by confidentiality but the company is already valued at about a billion dollars

Published on 27 Jul 2016

Silicon Valley churns out a new young company ready to challenge on the ground of the fledgling industry of the driverless car, the traditional automakers, large technology companies engaged (Google, Apple) and, of course, the other tech startups.

Its name is Zoox and, according to Techcrunch, it has just collected a considerable investment of 200 million dollars (252, according to Bloomberg) and would already be valued at about a billion dollars. Astonishing figures, which echo those that some months ago have followed the acquisition by General Motors of the startup Cruise Automation, valued (and paid for) about one billion dollars.

What is actually developing Zoox is, apparently, “top-secret”, the competition in this sector has now reached extraordinary levels and global dimension, as this new automotive segment has now clearly defined industrial characteristics which allowed a total upheaval of the players involved: Driverless cars are mainly software intelligence, and its most advanced developments. Being software it can be designed and developed by young and simple startup companies and to be attractive to investors, car manufacturers and major players.

Zoox has been working on driverless car for several years, and in 2013 it also presented at LA Auto Show renderings of its concept car “The Boz”: electric, bi-directional and of course with autonomous driving. (See cover photo).

Since then Zoox has continued to work on developing its own car, entering “stealth” mode, obscuring the website, avoiding talking with the media and taking all possible measures not to spread news, thus preventing competitors to understand which outcome have been achieved.

Some rather important information, however, have reached the press.

– First, since last March Zoox is the twelfth company (the first startup) to be licensed in the state of California, to test on the roads the driverless car: actually, the first startup was Cruise Automation, which having been fully acquired by GM it is no longer considered a startup. Here on the left a chart of the companies which are testing the autonomous driving car in California, the most engaged is of course Google.

– Second, according to the Wall Street Journal: Zoox has already hired 140 employees coming from Alphabet-Google, Apple and Tesla. The same co-founder, Jesse Levinson, has already worked side by side with Sebastian Thrun, the project leader of Google Car. Recently Laurie Yoler, former president of Qualcomm Labs, Dan Cooperman, former general counsel of Apple Inc. and Oracle Corp and Joseph Wu, an engineer coming from Tesla, have already been added to the company’s board.

– According to Techcrunch, Zoox would completely reinvent the concept of car, in each element and, thanks to proprietary technology, it could compete with Tesla. There are also elements (including statements made previously by the company) to speculate that Zoox is developing fleet of driverless car to provide a service such as Uber.

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