According to Bloomberg, secretive startup Zoox is looking for a bumper round of funding that could value it at over $1bn USD. Zoox ticks all the boxes for a disruptive newcomer. It has a short, catchy name, a grand but vague vision, board members sourced from big hitting firms like Oracle and Apple and – if all goes well – deep pockets to make it all happen.
What exactly does this Silicon Valley firm hope to achieve? Two years ago it released some snazzy renders of a concept vehicle designed to whet appetites but without a snowball’s chance in hell of being made.
The render showed a car with no steering wheel and with no defined front or back. Then it went dark. Trade mags stated that it intended to take on Uber but would use driverless vehicles. Zoox themselves said nothing. Keep ‘em guessing, eh lads?
What is known is that the company has a license to operate autonomous cars in the state of California. These aren’t handed out like confetti. The only other startup that had such a license, Cruise Automation, got bought out by General Motors.
The challenge for Zoox lies in the sector they are moving into. Google have a major play in this sector. Internet darlings Tesla are going from strength to strength and Apple’s imminent entry is the worst-kept secret in tech.
Of course it’s not a done deal yet. The $252m they are asking for is hardly pocket change. There’s also a very real risk that an existing auto company will buy them to shutter them and their innovations will never make it to the market. It’s been done before.
It’s all very mysterious and only adds to the growing buzz around driverless cars. Even though Uber themselves are conducting autonomous trials, the big money Zoox are asking for marks them out as a tech firm to watch. Maybe after they get their funding, they might decide to tell us exactly what it is they are working on…