Funding Round for Zoox, a Sign of Increased Interest in Automotive Tech

Tim Higgins and Rolfe Winkler reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Zoox Inc., the secretive Silicon Valley startup working to build its own self-driving cars, has quietly raised another round of funding that puts its valuation at $1.55 billion, a big jump from just a few months prior and a sign of increased interest in automotive technology.

“The Menlo Park, Calif., company founded by Tim Kentley-Klay, an Australian entrepreneur and designer, and Jesse Levinson, from Stanford University’s self-driving car program, raised $50 million in October, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The Journal writers noted that, “Founded in 2014, Zoox had already raised $240 million, including $200 million this past summer at a valuation of $1 billion, said the people familiar with the matter. Zoox hadn’t planned on raising more after that, these people said, but decided to capitalize on huge investor interest in the sector to sock away cash in case of an economic downturn.”

The Journal article explained that, “Investor interest has swelled following several high-profile advances in the self-driving industry. The technology being developed by Zoox is similar to efforts by Alphabet’s Google, which has already logged more than 2 million miles on public roads, and General Motors Inc.’s Cruise Automation, a startup that the Detroit auto maker acquired in a deal valued at $1 billion earlier this year.

Uber Technologies began testing self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh this year and acquired Otto, a startup aimed at making semi-trucks fully autonomous. Tesla, which already has a semiautonomous system on the road that is seen as a major step toward self-driving, began shipping vehicles last month with the hardware included that could one day be enabled by software to make them fully autonomous cars.”

The Journal writers added that, “When Hong Kong-based AID Partners Capital Holdings Ltd. disclosed in May a $20 million investment in Zoox, the investment firm said it believed Zoox can deploy a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles by 2020 for ride-sharing services like those Uber offers.”

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