It looks like driverless cars really might be the future of transportation. As a matter of fact, more than 5 dozen companies have already received permits to test autonomous vehicles in the state of California. But while 60 might have permission, Zoox is the first to receive permission to transport people in driverless vehicles.
At the end of the week, the California Public Utilities Commission granted Zoox an official permit to participate in the Golden State’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot program.
With this permit, then, Zoox will be able to test autonomous vehicles with passengers. For the testing period, of course, they will be required to also have a safety driver behind the wheel—just in case a route requires intervention—and they will not be able to charge passengers for rides. In exchange for this permit, then, Zoox has agreed to provide data and other reports to the CPUC in regards to the number of passenger miles traveled any incidents that may have occurred, and all passenger safety protocols.
Obviously, Zoox is just one of many companies who have been testing autonomous vehicles over the past year. But for the past three months, the company has tested their driverless cars as part of the Global Action Summit. And that agreement came only one month after the firing of co-founder Tim Kentley-Klay, which itself came only one month after Zoox closed a $500 million round of funding led by Grok Ventures’ Mike Cannon-Brookes.
This round, then, brought Zoox’s total funding to $800 million.
Zoox has the ultimate goal to eventually deploy commercial autonomous vehicles by 2020, which will be available as part of its internal ride-hailing service. These cars will be all-electric and also completely autonomous. You may be aware already that the very popular ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have been developing autonomous vehicle programs, so Zoox’s permit comes at a crucial time in the growing industry.
But Zoox has to get results pretty quickly. After all, this CPUC permit is only good for the next three years: it expires December 21, 2021. And the CPUC currently has two pilot programs in place: there is one dedicated to passenger testing with a safety driver in the vehicle and another for passenger testing without the safe driver.