Amazon to acquire autonomous driving startup Zoox

Amazon has agreed to pay over $1 billion to acquire the autonomous driving startup Zoox, in a move to expand the e-commerce giant’s reach in autonomous vehicle technology.

Zoox will continue to exist as a standalone business. Amazon in a release confirmed that Evans and Jesse Levinson, Zoox co-founder and CTO, will continue to lead the startup.

Zoox has plans to not only develop self-driving software, but to build its own vehicles and create a ride-hailing service. The company was aiming to launch a fully self-driving taxi service by 2020. The plan has been postponed due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

It’s easy to imagine that Zoox might pivot to a delivery service as Amazon has been working on its own autonomous vehicle technology projects, including its last-mile delivery robots.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the companies were in advanced talks and the deal could value Zoox at less than the $3.2 billion it achieved in a funding round in 2018.

“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’s chief of its consumer division Jeff Wilke said in a statement.

“This acquisition solidifies Zoox’s impact on the autonomous driving industry. We have made great strides with our purpose-built approach to safe, autonomous mobility, and our exceptionally talented team working every day to realize that vision. We now have an even greater opportunity to realize a fully autonomous future,” said Zoox CEO Aicha Evans.

Zoox’s acquisition isn’t Amazon’s first foray into autonomous vehicles. Early in 2019, it joined other investors in a $530 million stake in Aurora Innovation. Aurora recently has focused on a self-driving system for heavy trucks.

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