Amazon's next big ambition? A fleet of AI-controlled self-driving cars
After Alphabet's Waymo, Tesla, and Uber, online shopping giant Amazon is stepping into the field of autonomous vehicles. The Jeff Bezos-led company, according to a report in The Information and The Financial Times, has agreed to buy Zoox, an early-stage developer of self-driving cars, in a deal estimated to be worth more than $1.2 billion. Here's all you need to know about it.
In late May, The Wall Street Journal had reported that Amazon was in talks with Zoox for an acquisition. Now, sources familiar with the development have confirmed to The Information that the e-commerce giant is paying over $1.2 billion to take control of the nearly 1,000-person start-up, its assets, including IP and self-driving technology. Notably, Amazon is yet to make the deal official.
Since 2014, Zoox has been building a self-driving "bi-directional" vehicle, which has no steering wheel or discernible front or rear end and can move in either direction. The prototype vehicle hasn't been publicly unveiled but was slated to go into testing later this year. Additionally, Zoox self-driving technology has also been in testing stage with modified Hyundai SUVs in San Francisco and Las Vegas.
While we cannot be completely sure, speculation is rife that Amazon might be planning to use this acquisition to develop a fleet of ride-hailing autonomous robotaxis and take on the likes of Waymo, Uber, and others. However, as The Information suggests, there is also a possibility that the company might use the technology of the start-up to create a network of self-driving delivery vehicles.
No matter what the plan, Zoox still has a long way to go to make its bi-directional vehicle a reality and Amazon would have to support its work with billions of dollars worth of investment. For now, the e-commerce giant plans to pay off most of Zoox's previous investors in full and let the start-up operate as its independent subsidiary, like Twitch.
The acquisition, once confirmed, will also be one of the largest ones to have been sealed by Amazon after Whole Foods ($13.7 billion) and shoe retailer Zappos ($1.2 billion). However, it will not be its first move in the self-driving category; prior to this, Amazon had participated in a funding round for self-driving start-up Aurora Innovation as well as EV maker Rivian.