Retrofitting Cars With Self-Driving Tech Doesn't Make Sense: Zoox

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Retrofitting traditional vehicles with self-driving technologies doesn’t make any more sense than equipping horse carriages with engines, according to Tim Kentley-Klay, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Zoox, a Foster, California-based autonomous driving startup. While speaking at a recent San Francisco summit hosted by The Information, Mr. Kentley-Klay said the implications of self-driving are so vast that driverless vehicles simply must be built from scratch for optimal performance to be realized.

That’s precisely what Zoox is currently doing, with the company planning on launching a fully automated ride-hailing network in 2020. Established in 2014, Zoox already raised close to $300 million, according to Crunchbase, with that figure making it one of the best-funded startups in the entire U.S. automotive industry. Details of the firm’s solutions remain largely unclear, with the startup still not openly showcasing them to the media, though its idea of a car built for self-driving from the ground up entails no steering wheel and seats facing one another, according to what little the company revealed over the last four years.

Besides being able to get rid of unnecessary equipment, Zoox sees its product approach as beneficial from the perspective of quality assurance as it doesn’t involve many third-party component manufacturers, allowing the firm to work on improving the overall experience of its solutions and eliminating potential software bugs on its own. Zoox is among several dozens of companies who presently have a testing permit to trial self-driving vehicles on public roads in California, with its current testing route going from its home city to Coit Tower in San Francisco. The firm’s approach to autonomous driving solutions is radically different to that of Uber, Waymo, and most other technology giants in the field, all of which partnered with established automakers to come up with their own driverless car prototypes in recent years. Zoox already surpassed a $1 billion valuation and is likely to be raising more funding in the second half of the year as its R&D efforts continue intensifying.