Amazon has officially confirmed that it is acquiring self-driving start-up Zoox. The deal is estimated at over $1 billion and will give Amazon control over the start-up which has been developing electric self-driving vehicles.
Reports suggest that this is Amazon’s biggest foray into the self-driving venture and one of its biggest outlays ever. Amazon may intend using Zoox to automate vehicles that deliver goods to customers according to The Information. Amazon has already begun experimenting with such technologies, with its existing robot and drone delivery projects.
Financial Times also speculated that Amazon’s goal could be an autonomous ride-hailing fleet that can compete with Alphabet’s Waymo.
“Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience. Like Amazon, Zoox is passionate about innovation and about its customers, and we’re excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead,” Amazon CEO of Global Consumer Jeff Wilke said in the announcement.
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Amazon says that the Zoox team will continue under the leadership of its current CEO Aicha Evans and CTO Jesse Levinson. The Financial Times further reports that Amazon will leave Zoox to run as an independent subsidiary after the acquisition.
Zoox has over 1,000 workers although it laid off its contract staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company however says it will hire them back after the social distancing guidelines have been completely lifted.
The company is working on bi-directional electric vehicles. Its version will however have no steering wheel or discernible front or back end. This will allow it to comfortably travel in both directions. Zoox says the prototype will begin testing by the end of 2020.
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