Zoox Inc. today announced that it has signed a $200 million convertible note that will be part of a Series C round. Unlike other companies developing autonomous vehicles, Zoox is working on both the hardware and software for robotic taxicabs.
The Foster City, Calif.-based company was founded in 2014 by Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson. It fired Kentley-Klay in August 2018, and Aicha Evans, former chief strategy officer at Intel Corp., became CEO in January.
Zoox said on its site that it is designing “a symmetrical, bidirectional, zero-emissions vehicle from the ground up to solve the unique challenges of autonomous mobility.” The company is working on robotaxis without controls for human drivers such as steering wheels.
“We want to redesign, recycle and rethink the industry,” Evans said. While its approach may differ, the company needs funding to keep up with competitors such as Cruise, which raised $1.15 billion in May, and Argo AI, which signed a $2.6 billion deal with Volkswagen in July.
Largest Autonomous Vehicle Investments of 2019
|Company||Amt. ($M)||Lead Investor||Date|
|Argo AI||2600||Volkswagen AG||7/11|
|Cruise||1150||Honda Motor Corp.||5/7|
|Uber ATG||1000||Softbank Vision Fund||4/18|
|Nuro.ai||940||Softbank Vision Fund||2/11|
|Xpeng Motors||400||Xiaomi Corp.||11/15|
|Innoviz Technologies||170||China Merchants Capital||3/26|
On the software side, Zoox uses simulation to train its vehicles to handle situations such as yellow left-turn signals. It said it plans to test and offer its self-driving taxi service next year.
The company had previously raised a total of $790 million, including a Series B round worth $465 million in July 2018, according to Crunchbase. Existing and new investors participated in the latest funding.
Zoox to launch in Las Vegas
In addition to trials in the San Francisco Bay Area, Zoox said that it plans to expand testing in Las Vegas as a target market for its on-demand mobility service.
Zoox said that Las Vegas offers “an opportunity to extend learning in a second dense urban environment; one that has diverse and unique use cases compared to driving in San Francisco,” reported The Verge. “For example, Las Vegas provides interesting scenarios for our vehicles to encounter, like reversible lanes, complex pick-up and drop-off zones, high temperatures, and more night-time activity.”
Other autonomous vehicle companies are testing in Nevada, including Aptiv, Faraday Future, Kia Motors, and Lyft. Zoox ranked third, behind only Waymo and Cruise, in a report on “disengagements” last year in California. Disengagements are incidents in which the safety driver has to take over control of a test vehicle.
Editor’s note: Zoox’s Levinson participated in “Look Who’s Driving,” a NOVA episode on self-driving cars that will air tomorrow night on PBS. The Robot Report spoke with a producer and will post an article on the concerns around autonomous driving.