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Zoox demonstrates bi-directional self-driving vehicle [Video]

by Justin King

The startup believes it will leapfrog Waymo and established automakers by developing its own autonomous vehicle from the ground up.

A mysterious startup has shed more light on its unlikely attempt to jump ahead of Waymo and established automakers in the race to bring autonomous vehicles to market.

Zoox believes everyone else has erred in starting with traditional vehicles and adding on sensors and computers to enable self-driving capabilities. Instead, the startup believes it will gain an advantage by developing a dedicated self-driving vehicle in-house from the ground up.

The company has built three generations of tube-frame prototypes, some with four seats that face each other. The vehicles are all-electric and can operate in either direction.

Bloomberg apparently had positive impressions after taking a few demonstration rides. With Waymo approaching its first public launch, however, Zoox's prediction that all of its competitors are "f---ed" seems highly unlikely at best.

Zoox is not the first to focus on a dedicated self-driving car. Google had the same idea and actually developed a working prototype in-house, before spinning off the unit as Waymo and shifting focus to the seemingly more viable strategy of modifying off-the-shelf cars sourced from multiple automakers. Even Apple is rumored to have pivoted away from in-house vehicle development.

"We are a startup pitted against the biggest companies on the planet," co-founder Tim Kentley-Klay says. "But we believe deeply that what we're building is the right thing. Creativity and technical elegance will win here."

The startup has succeeded in convincing some big-money investors, raising around $800 million so far, and reportedly poached hundreds of engineers from Tesla, Apple, Google, Ferrari and other players.

With a sizable war chest, Zoox hopes to bring its vehicle to market by 2020.