Mar 27, 2019

Zoox CEO Aicha Evans talks about solving urban mobility

Illustration: Axios Visuals

A month into her job as the new CEO of self-driving car startup Zoox, Aicha Evans is focused on one thing: Fulfilling the co-founders' mission to reinvent mobility for dense urban environments.

Why it matters: Evans, a former Intel executive, took over as CEO after the board's unexpected dismissal last August of Zoox's creative visionary, Tim Kentley-Klay. While co-founder Jesse Levinson remains president and CTO, it's up to Evans to commercialize the technology amid deflated industry hype about self-driving cars.

I sat down with Evans in her first interview as CEO. Here are some of the takeaways...

With no more distraction at the top, Evans' message to Zoox's 700 employees is simple: "Focus. Focus. Focus. I come from Senegal, West Africa. The odds of sitting here are not high."

  • She is emphasizing that deploying self-driving cars is a difficult challenge and only a handful of companies will survive.

Zoox's mission is to launch a robotaxi service by 2020 with an autonomous electric vehicle it designed and built.

  • The design is finished, and a pre-production prototype is undergoing testing at a private track in California.
  • It will not have a steering wheel or pedals, but will offer automatic sliding doors and carriage-style seating.
  • Meanwhile, Zoox is running tests of its software on retrofitted Toyota Highlander hybrids in San Francisco.

A copy of the vehicle on which Zoox has staked its future is parked behind a badge-secured, floor-to-ceiling drape in the garage of its headquarters in Foster City, California. Evans finds it the perfect place to reflect on the challenge ahead.

  • "She is my guiding light," she says, smiling.

So when will it be ready?

  • "When I put my 2 kids in there without me," she says. "Not yet."

Go deeper

How to understand the scale of American job decimation

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via St. Louis Fed; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Sentence from a nightmare: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, a decline from the previous week's 6.9 million.

The big picture: Over the past three weeks, 1 in 10 working-age adults filed for unemployment, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 1,579,690 — Total deaths: 94,567 — Total recoveries: 346,780Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 452,582 — Total deaths: 16,129 — Total recoveries: 24,790Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under coronavirus public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — Another 6.6 million jobless claims were filed last week.
  5. World latest: Boris Johnson is moved out of ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  6. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Biden rolls out new policies in effort to court Sanders supporters

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Biden campaign announced two new policies on Thursday on health care and student debt that are squarely aimed at appealing to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The policies don't go as far as Sanders' platform, but they signal that Biden is serious about incorporating elements of his former rival's agenda in an effort to help unify the Democratic Party and defeat President Trump in the general election.