Amazon announced on Friday(i.e.26 June 2020) that it will acquire Zoox, a self-driving startup established in 2014 that has raised almost $1 billion in funding and which tries to develop autonomous driving technology, including vehicles, to provide a full-stack solution for ride-hailing.
Zoox will remain to exist as a standalone business, according to Amazon’s announcement, with current CEO Aicha Evans staying in her role, as well as CTO and co-founder Jesse Levinson. Their company mission will also remain the same, the release notes. The Financial Time reports that the deal is worth $1.2 billion. The Wall Street Journal had reported at the end of May that Amazon was looking at Zoox as a potential takeover target and that the deal had reached the advanced stages.
Zoox has picked one of the most expensive possible paths in the autonomous driving industry, trying to build a fit-for-purpose self-driving passenger vehicle from the ground up, along with the software and AI end to give its autonomous driving capabilities. Zoox has done some notable cost-cutting in the past year, and it brought in CEO Evans in early 2019 from Intel, likely with an eye to leveraging her knowledge to help the company move to commercialization.
With a parent like Amazon, Zoox should achieve the runway it wants to keep up with its primary rival — Waymo, which started as Google’s self-driving car project, and which adds Google owner Alphabet as its corporate owner. Amazon has been working on its autonomous vehicle technology projects, including its last-mile delivery robots, which are six-wheeled sidewalk-treading bots meant to carry small packages to customer homes. The company has also spent in autonomous driving startup Aurora, and it has tested self-driving trucks powered by self-driving delivery startup Embark.
The Zoox acquisition is definitely aimed at helping the startup “bring their vision of autonomous ride-hailing to reality,” according to Amazon, so this doesn’t look to be directly focused on Amazon’s logistics operations for package delivery. But Zoox’s ground-up technology, which includes developing zero-emission vehicles built especially for autonomous use, could easily translate to that side of Amazon’s operations.
Until, if Zoox does remain on plan for passenger ride-hailing, that could open up a whole new market for Amazon — one which would put it head-to-head with Uber and Lyft once the autonomous driving technology evolves.