Autonomous Startup Zoox Hires Former Ferrari Executive Corrado Lanzone

Lanzone previously worked on the Italian automaker's Formula One team.

Zoox

Zoox is one of handful of startups looking to cash in on an expected boom of autonomous electrified cars. The company has kept relatively quite recently, but just made a high-profile hire.

Former Ferrari executive Corrado Lanzone is joining Zoox as vice president of manufacturing operations, Reuters reports. Fanzine joins Zoox after a two-decade career with Ferrari, primarily working with the automaker's Formula One team. At Scuderia Ferrari, Lanzone oversaw manufacturing, purchasing, quality assurance, and interactions with more than 100 Tier 1 suppliers, according to a Zoox statement. Zoox will need someone with experience in manufacturing and quality control if it seriously intends to build its own cars.

Zoox first emerged in 2013, when it unveiled renderings of an autonomous car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Called the Boz, the car was designed to be bi-directional: instead of reversing, it would simply switch driven ends to maneuver, something that really can't be practically achieved in a car with manual controls. The Boz didn't have those, and featured inward-facing seats meant to make it easier for passengers to converse.

Lanzone is Zoox's second recent notable hire. Last month, former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration boss Mark Rosekind joined the company as chief safety innovation officer. Rosekind's knowledge of the inner workings of the NHTSA will likely prove useful to Zoox as it tries to navigate the ambiguous legal waters of autonomous cars.

Zoox isn't the first automotive startup to rely on executives from more established companies and organizations. Before they unveiled their first production cars, much of the credibility of Faraday Future and Lucid Motors rested on the many veterans from Tesla and more traditional automakers in their ranks.

Hiring people with experience can produce results, especially when it comes to cars themselves. The Faraday Future FF91 and Lucid Air wouldn't be worth talking about if the people designing them didn't know what they were doing. But organizing a company and designing a car are only the first steps. Maintaining a car company requires a lot of cash, and lot of attention to detail. Tesla may have managed to pull it off thus far, but the Silicon Valley wonder is definitely the exception, not the rule. 

On top of that, Zoox adds the uncertainty of building a business case around autonomous cars. It's still too early to tell how regulators will react to the large-scale deployment of self-driving cars, or even if the technology can really do everything its proponents say it can. Test programs undertaken so far prove that cars can drive themselves, but that doesn't mean they are capable of doing everything that a conventional vehicle with a human driver can.