Amazon Acquired Self-Driving Vehicles Startup “Zoox”

By: | July 6th, 2020

Image from Amazon

Amazon has acquired “Zoox”, a self-driving technology startup with a promising research portfolio. The deal reached an agreed price of $1.2 billion, signifying that Amazon has serious intentions about entering this field and that this is not just an experimental investment.

Amazon is planning to start its venture in the autonomously driven vehicles by launching a ride-hailing fleet, while its engineers will also explore potential applications that would help the firm with its same-day delivery services. Amazon is already gradually replacing its warehouse employees with robots, so the retail giant would be more than open in doing the same with the delivery network drivers if possible.

Zoox employs 1,000 experts who are working on “bi-directional” self-driving systems that use no steering wheel at all. The vehicles have no defined front or back, so they can drive either way as required. The startup was planning to launch its own robotaxi service later this year, to compete with Waymo, but these plans have taken a backseat as the systems weren’t ready for this level of operational complexity. Amazon is now at the helm, but making strategic decisions will remain in Zoox’s hands as this was part of the agreement. So, Zoox will help Amazon deploy its tech, but it will push its robotaxi plans forward when it’s ready to do it.

Of course, industry-shaking moves cannot go unnoticed from other big players in the self-driving field. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called Amazon’s Jeff Bezos a copycat, which is a pretty harsh characterization. The reason for this is that Musk believes that Amazon will now use tech that is the intellectual property of Tesla. In April 2020, Zoox settled a lawsuit with Tesla after they admitted having employed former Tesla employees who shared classified technical documents with them.

At this point, this is just humming noise for the e-commerce giant that looks forward to seeing its autonomous-driven fleets roaming the streets, delivering goods.

Bill Toulas

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