Stealth Uber competitor Zoox valued at $1.5 billion

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The race for self-driving autos is heating up; undercover startup Zoox is fetching a value of $1.5 billion even before unveiling their first product.

TechCrunch has confirmed that the company recently raised $50 million from Hong Kong-based hedge fund Composite Capital. The round was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and comes just months after $200 million in funding raised at a $1 billion valuation.

Zoox does not have plans to sell the cars directly to consumers, but instead plans to create a service to rival Uber. They haven’t announced specific timetables for its release, but have referred to it as a “five-year vehicle development program.”

The startup was formed by Jesse Levinson, a leader in Stanford’s self-driving car group, and Tim Kentley-Klay, an Australian entrepreneur. Zoox formed less than two years ago, but the Menlo Park-based startup has already hired more than 100 employees, some from companies like Tesla, Alphabet and Apple.

General Motors’ $1 billion acquisition of Cruise Automation earlier this year helped raise the valuations of auto startups. Sources tell TechCrunch that traditional automakers are considering buying more startups.

Uber has already begun testing its self-driving service in Pittsburgh. The company also recently purchased Otto, to add to its autonomous fleet.

But these vehicles are still highly regulated; Comma.ai recently threw in the towel amid much frustration.

Zoox previously raised funding from DFJ, Lux Capital and Blackbird Ventures.

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