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Autonomous Shuttle Startup Zoox Granted Permit to Offer Rides to the Public in California

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【Summary】Self-driving car startup Zoox Inc has become the first company to receive approval from California regulators to operate an autonomous shuttle service for public passengers, state regulators said on Friday.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 21, 2018 2:48 PM PT
Autonomous Shuttle Startup Zoox Granted Permit to Offer Rides to the Public in California

SAN FRANCISCO — Self-driving car startup Zoox Inc has become the first company to receive approval from California regulators to operate an autonomous shuttle service for public passengers, state regulators said on Friday.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said Silicon Valley-based Zoox is the first company to join a state pilot program in which self-driving cars will transport members of the public, marking a step closer toward fully autonomous urban transportation options.

Although Zoox's vehicles will be capable of autonomous driving, they won't be entirely driverless. The vehicles in the pilot program will be required to have a human behind the wheel ready to take control of the vehicle in any unexpected situations. In addition, Zoox will not be allowed to collect fares or charge passengers.

"This is a really, really significant milestone as we head towards commercial launch, which we have stated is toward the end of 2020," said Bert Kauffman, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox.

Zoox stands out in Silicon Valley working alongside many startups developing self-driving technology. Instead of just working on software, the company plans on building its own multi-passenger, electric vehicles from the ground up for its autonomous shuttle service. To date, Zoox has received $790 million in funding for its autonomous shuttle service. The latest Series B round of $500 million in July 2018 came from Grok Ventures.

The ability to test the cars with members of the public allows self-driving car companies to refine their technology and begin to smooth out rides so that they are more enjoyable for passengers. It also provides an opportunity for people the experience of riding in a self-driving vehicle, easing some of the public's anxiety associated with self-driving cars.

Waymo, formally Google's self-driving car program, has taken the lead in self-driving cars with millions of miles of real world testing under its belt. The company just launched the world's first autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona using a fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Like Zoox, Waymo has a human backup driver behind the wheel, ready to take over.

Zoox is one of 62 companies with permits to test self-driving cars on public roads in California, although this DMV permit does not allow companies to actually pick up passengers. However Zoox's new permit does.

Zoox already has competition in Silicon Valley. Waymo has plans to expand its autonomous ride-hailing service to Mountain View and the surrounding towns in the near future.

Last summer Zoox made headlines when it poached 17 engineers from Apple's secretive ‘Project Titan' autonomous car project. Zoox's announcement today offers a glimpse into what the company has been working on for the past 18 months.

resource from: Reuters

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