This Startup Is the Latest to Enter the Self-Driving Race

March 23, 2016, 2:32 PM UTC
Tesla Introduces Self-Driving Features With Software Upgrade
A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015.
Photograph by Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Zoox, a startup with aspirations for an Uber-like service, has received a permit from California to begin testing self-driving vehicles on the state’s public roads.

The company will become the 12th to receive a permit from the state, and joins an illustrious list of autonomous vehicle-dreaming companies to have received permission from California, according to Bloomberg.

The list includes Google (GOOG), Ford (F), Tesla (TSLA), Nissan (NSANY), Volkswagen (VLKAY), and Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF).

Zoox has long operated under a shroud of mystery—its website is an ode to black. The company was founded in 2014 by Australian designer Tim Kentley-Klay and engineer Jesse Levinson, who reportedly worked at Stanford University with Sebastian Thrun, the first director of Google’s self-driving car program who left to concentrate on his education startup Udacity.

Zoox has harbored hopes of launching self-driving taxis by 2020 that will meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s guidelines of Level 4 automation, the highest level of automated driving. In a previous interview, Kentley-Klay outlined his plans to dispense with steering wheels or brake pedals, which self-driving cars in a Level 3 designation would have. (Google’s self-driving cars are gradually removing steering wheels and pedals from its prototypes.)

“We think Level 3, which is what everybody in the auto industry is aiming for, is actually bulls**t,” Kentley-Klay told ReadWriteDrive. “The legislation is saying that, even though the [Level 3] car is driving itself, the driver has to be paying attention. That’s not a self-driving car. That’s a self-defeating car. What is the point?”