Amazon has reportedly acquired autonomous car start-up Zoox

26 Jun 2020240 Views

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Rumours that Amazon was looking to acquire self-driving car developer Zoox first began to emerge in May.

According to the Financial Times and The Information, Amazon is moving into the self-driving car business with the acquisition of Zoox. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Financial Times reported that Zoox is being bought for more than $1.2bn and that the deal will be announced today (26 June).

Zoox is a robotics company focusing on autonomous mobility. It was founded in California by Jesse Levinson and Tim Kentley Klay in 2014.

According to The Information, the deal would give Amazon access to start-up with a team of nearly 1,000 that has designed a prototype autonomous vehicle to transport passengers in urban areas.

It is unclear whether Amazon wants to use Zoox’s technology for delivering goods, but the e-commerce giant has previously experimented with robotics delivery technology, including drones and robots that can travel on sidewalks.

Drive for autonomous tech

Zoox has tested its technology in cities and on highways, where it has demonstrated how the technology can yield to pedestrians and pass double-parked vehicles. It is designing a vehicle that is symmetrical and bidirectional, so that it can travel in either direction without disorientating passengers.

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The company has been testing its technology in retrofitted Toyota SUVs in San Francisco and Las Vegas, however testing has been cut back due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In April, the self-driving vehicle start-up laid off almost all of its contract workers in light of the health crisis.

Rumours of an Amazon acquisition began in May, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was planning to purchase Zoox in a deal that valued the company at less than the $3.2bn it was valued at following a 2018 funding round.

While The Information said that the e-commerce giant may use Zoox’s technology for logistics, the Financial Times suggested that Amazon could be creating an autonomous ride-hailing fleet to compete with Alphabet’s Waymo.

The Financial Times also reported that Amazon is expected to let Zoox run as an independent subsidiary after the acquisition.

Amazon has previously invested in autonomous tech start-up Aurora Innovation, which is led by the former head of Google’s self-driving car project, as well as electric vehicle start-up Rivian.

To date, Zoox has raised more than $955m in funding, from investors including Alium Capital, Grok Ventures, Visionnaire Ventures, AID Partners Capital, Blackbird Ventures and Threshold.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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