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ZOOX gets permit to test self-driving concept cars at California

Published: March 23, 2016 | San Francisco, CA

Zoox, a start-up focused on bringing vehicle autonomy to the mass market has got a go-ahead from Californian authorities to test its self-driving car on public roads. The company hopes to put fully autonomous taxis, similar to Uber & Lyft on the road by 2020.

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The company is brainchild of the Australian designer Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson, an engineer who worked at Stanford University with Sebastian Thrun, the first director of Google’s self-driving car program. Their vision is for a sleek, modernistic, deluxe electric taxi with gullwing doors, in which four passengers face one another. The car is code-named L4, a play on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s classification of full automation as Level 4.

Zoox becomes the 12th company to receive such a permit. Others include Google parent Alphabet Inc., Ford Motor Co., Tesla Motors Inc. and Cruise Automation, which was acquired by General Motors Co. this month to help bolster the automaker’s efforts to develop self-driving vehicles.

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Zoox applied on March 16 for the permit, which was issued Tuesday, said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The permit covers one car and seven drivers, she said.

In recent months, Zoox appears to have been expanding its efforts. Dan Cooperman, former general counsel for Apple and Oracle Corp., joined Zoox’s board in December, as did Laurie Yoler, former president of Qualcomm Labs, according to their LinkedIn pages. The LinkedIn profile of Joseph Wu, who helped build Tesla’s autopilot team as senior engineering recruiter, said he joined Zoox in January. In the past seven days, the startup has posted several job openings on LinkedIn, including for engineers and quality assurance testers.

Source: Bloomberg, IEEE Spectrum

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