Amazon has announced that it is acquiring autonomous driving startup Zoox in a deal worth $1.2 billion. The company will reportedly continue functioning as a standalone company, with CEO Aicha Evans and Jesse Levinson, the company’s co-founder and CTO, continuing in their positions. However, the acquisition does signal Amazon’s move towards autonomous vehicles.
Zoox was founded in 2014 and creates autonomous, zero emission vehicles tailored for the robo-taxi and ride-hailing industry. Amazon’s acquisition also means competition for ride-hailing platforms including Uber and Lyft, who are also developing self-driving cars.
Zoox will also be rivalling Alphabet’s Waymo, who recently announced an exclusive partnership with Volvo to integrate Waymo’s self-driving technology into Volvo’s platform. The companies are partnering together to develop electric robotaxis. Unlike Waymo, however, Zoox does not rely on existing autonomous vehicular technology, but rather aims to develop a vehicle with no steering wheel, one that can travel in any direction.
This also comes at a time when Amazon has been making investments in the sustainable transportation sector, having invested in self-driving startup Aurora, as well as electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian. Aside from investing in Rivian, Amazon also ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from the company in September 2019 to use for delivery. The company’s commitment to using electric vehicles is part of its Climate Pledge to become net zero carbon by 2040.
The company had initially intended on entering testing phases in 2020, but the company suffered drastic layoffs in April due to COVID-19, reportedly letting go about 120 employees. Regardless, the company plans on moving forward with plans to develop robo-taxis for commercial use as well as ride-hailing services.
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