Feb 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

Zoox scouts for funding ahead of self-driving taxi debut

Zoox CEO Aicha Evans. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Zoox is in "advanced discussions with several strategic partners and corporate investors" for its next round of funding, CEO Aicha Evans tells Axios.

Why it matters: The self-driving car developer has been especially quiet for the past year or so, and venture capital sources say the company has struggled to raise capital to fund its ambitious plans.

  • Last October, it raised $200 million in convertible note funding, which it said it would fold into an upcoming Series C round that has yet to occur.

Yes, but: Evans, a former Intel executive marking her one-year anniversary with Zoox, said, "This year is a huge year. We are finally showing the world what we've been up to."

Zoox is more ambitious than most AV tech startups, with plans to operate its own ride-hailing service using a purpose-built robotaxi currently under development.

  • The bi-directional electric taxi, with four-wheel steering and active suspension, will be revealed later this year, Evans said in an interview.
  • It has already passed federal crash safety tests and durability testing, she added.
  • Early commercial pilots will begin in 2021.

Where it stands: Zoox continues to develop its self-driving technology using Toyota SUVs on some of the most difficult streets of San Francisco.

  • I was impressed by the state of their technology a year ago, and a more recent assessment by Autonocast co-host Ed Niedermeyer suggests Zoox has improved even more.

The bottom line: It takes a lot of capital to develop autonomous vehicle technology; even more so to design and build a vehicle and then launch a ride-hailing network.

  • Evans, who once ran strategy for Intel, is confident in the company's plan and says it will have the capital to bring its vehicle to market.
  • "Let the doubters doubt."

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