Amazon has announced that it is acquiring self-driving car startup Zoox in a deal estimated to be worth over $1 billion. Foster City, California-based Zoox has founded in 2014 and raised $955 million funding from investors, including Grok Ventures, Lux Capital, Blackbird Ventures.
Amazon’s intention to the automotive industry is not new. Amazon has also invested in electric truckmaker Rivian and the self-driving startup Aurora. “Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO, Worldwide Consumer. “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.”
While it seems the deal could drive Amazon into a new market: transporting people from one place to another, some industry analysts think Amazon’s main goal is to repurpose the Zoox technology and operations for its core business: delivering packages to shoppers. “My guess would be in the near term that Amazon is probably more interested in taking that platform and adapting it as an alternative or complement to its existing fleet of delivery vans,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights, who follows autonomous vehicle developments. On the other hand, Amazon didn’t directly answer any kind of question about autonomous package delivery.
Zoox has been testing its self-driving technology in a fleet of modified Toyota SUVs in San Francisco and Las Vegas, and recently, it has made progress toward a commercial launch before live testing of its level 3 vehicles ground to a halt during the pandemic. The company recently announced it would begin deploying its autonomous Highlanders in Las Vegas with a permit from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to transport passengers autonomously.
Amazon says the Zoox team will continue to be lead by its current CEO Aicha Evans and CTO Jesse Levinson. The Financial Times previously reported that Amazon would let Zoox run as an independent subsidiary after the acquisition, similar to how Twitch currently operates. “This acquisition solidifies Zoox’s impact on the autonomous driving industry,” said Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox. “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.”