Zoox acquisition puts Amazon in pole position for ride-hailing, self-driving race

The Robot Report

The on-demand and self-driving car race got a bit more competitive today with Amazon.com Inc.’s announcement that it has agreed to acquire Zoox Inc. The Foster City, Calif.-based startup has about 1,000 employees.

Zoox was founded in 2014 with the goal of designing and building from the ground up zero-emissions vehicles for autonomous ride hailing, as well as an end-to-end autonomy software stack. Seattle-based Amazon did not specify whether it is more interested in Zoox for its ride-hailing or autonomy expertise.

“Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience,” stated Jeff Wilke, worldwide consumer CEO at Amazon. “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.”

Zoox the latest self-driving funding recipient

Zoox had previously raised $50 million in Series A funding in 2016 and $200 million in October 2019. It is the latest in large transactions around autonomous vehicles this year, led by Volkswagen’s $2.6 billion investment in Argo AI, Waymo’s close to $3 billion between March and May, and Didi Chuxing raising $500 million in May after being acquired for $300 million by SoftBank Group in March.

In addition, Amazon has made other investments in autonomous vehicles, including participating in Rivian’s $700 million funding and Aurora Innovation Inc.’s $350 million Series B in 2019. Aurora was among the companies that briefly halted self-driving testing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it acquired Blackmore Sensors and Analytics Inc. last month.

Amazon has pursued the development of delivery systems such as the Scout robot, and its Amazon Web Services unit has provided support for development of autonomous vehicles and robots.

Amazon said that Zoox’s current executive team — CEO Aicha Evans and Chief Technology Officer Jesse Levinson — will continue to lead the company as a standalone business.

“This acquisition solidifies Zoox’s impact on the autonomous driving industry,” Evans said. “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.”

“Since Zoox’s inception six years ago, we have been singularly focused on our ground-up approach to autonomous mobility,” said Levinson. “Amazon’s support will markedly accelerate our path to delivering safe, clean, and enjoyable transportation to the world.”

Although Amazon did not specify the value of the acquisition, which is subject to customary closing conditions, reports suggested that it paid about $1.2 billion for Zoox.

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Source: therobotreport

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