Amazon is set to acquire autonomous vehicle developer Zoox for about $1.2 billion, aiding Zoox in its current focus of developing and deploying the self-driving “robotaxi.”
Zoox will remain a standalone business, and will continue to be led by CEO Aicha Evans and co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson. Evans and Levinson said they believe this partnership will allow the company to accelerate the timeline of its mission to create an autonomous driving industry.
“Amazon’s support will markedly accelerate our path to delivering safe, clean and enjoyable transportation to the world,” Levinson said in a statement.
While Zoox will continue to operate independently, Amazon is likely to benefit greatly from acquiring it. This acquisition comes after years of Amazon displaying an interest in self-driving vehicles, particularly to aid in deliveries.
“If you think about the auto industry right now, there’s so many things going on with Uber-ization, electrification, the connected car,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a March meeting with employees, according to recordings. “It’s going to be something very interesting to watch and participate in.”
Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of Worldwide Consumer, expressed his excitement about the partnership in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Amazon has space in multiple industries in which autonomous technology could be useful, including cashierless grocery stores and product delivery. While the brand has not yet identified its intended use, studies show that last-mile delivery makes up 53% of total shipping costs, and experts are speculating that Zoox’s automation technology could drastically reduce those expenses.
Amazon has already begun using self-driving trucks from Embark to “create safer roadways and a better work environment for drivers on long-haul runs,” as stated by an Amazon spokesperson. Utilizing automated technology more frequently and through the final mile could be the next step to an automated delivery process.
The automated driving industry is full of brands attempting to create vehicles that can run independently of drivers, including Cruise, Pony.ai, and of course, Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter after the announcement of Amazon’s acquisition of Zoox to call Jeff Bezos a copycat. UPS has teamed up with Waymo to test self-driving vans for package deliveries, and last year, FedEx laid out AI revolutions set to transform the packaging and shipping industry, including courier robots, driverless deliveries and robotic staff members.