Autonomous Vehicle

Zoox cuts jobs, could be reaching end of the road

Zoox Inc., the self-driving car unicorn that last month cut hundreds of jobs and settled a trade secrets lawsuit with Tesla Inc., is reportedly pondering a sale.

The Information, citing unnamed sources, said the Foster City-based company hired Qatalyst Partners to help it find a buyer at the same time that it is trying to raise money to help it remain independent.

It said Zoox has spoken to several automakers about either buying the company or investing in it.

The company confirmed to the Business Journal that it has been working with Qatalyst about a possible investment: “We can confirm we are in advanced discussions with several potential strategic investors and expect to finalize the round soon. Zoox has been receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties and has been working with Qatalyst Partners to evaluate such interest.”

Unlike rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise Automation, Zoox has been developing a new electric vehicle with no pedals or steering wheel — instead of retrofitting existing vehicles with less advanced self-driving capabilities.

This requires a large staff — until last month’s cuts, it employed 1,000 — and lots of money. The company has raised nearly $1 billion from investors that include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Primavera Capital Group and Lux Capital Management. It was valued at about $3.2 billion after its last equity round in the summer of 2018, according to PitchBook Data.

Zoox last month cut 10 percent of its workforce — about 100 people — about a week after letting go of about 120 contract workers who were mostly backup drivers on test vehicles. It said at the time that it planned to hire everyone back “once the shelter in place is lifted, unless stated otherwise.”

In the Tesla settlement, Zoox said it would pay an undisclosed amount of monetary damages and undergo an audit to assure that none of its employees have retained or are using confidential Tesla information.

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