- Founded in 2014, Zoox had promised to have self-driving taxis in San Francisco this year but found the project a bit more difficult than expected.
- Neither Amazon nor Zoox would give us more details on the deal, but it's worth a reported $1.2 billion and is focused on realizing fully autonomous, zero-emission ride-hailing vehicles.
- Always classy on Twitter, Tesla's CEO said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is just copying Tesla's lead with this move.
Zoox is not the best-known name in autonomous driving technology, but that hasn't stopped the company from making bold promises. The Zoox website says the company is working on fully autonomous driving with a purpose-built "symmetrical, bidirectional, zero-emissions vehicles" that will (or could, at least) be used for on-demand mobility in complex environments. The company says its technology is "driving autonomously in ways that no one else has shown. We are driving in cities and on highways. Making unprotected lefts and rights on red. Yielding to pedestrians and passing double-parked vehicles."
There must be something to all this bluster, though, since Amazon followed through on rumors that were bubbling around earlier this month and has now acquired the startup for a reported $1.2 billion. Amazon said in a statement Friday that the two companies will work together to design the autonomous ride-hailing vehicles from the ground up and putting passengers' needs first. While the earlier rumors suggested Amazon could use Zoox's technology to deliver packages instead of people, the official statement continues Zoox's "the future of ride-hailing" message.
"Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience," Jeff Wilke, Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO, said 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."
Even though the exact details of the acquisition and future plans are vague and neither Amazon nor Zoox responded to Car and Driver's request for more information, that didn't stop Tesla CEO Elon Musk from chiming in on the deal on Twitter, calling Amazon CEO Bezos a copycat (using that traditional billionaire-speak, the feline emoji) for getting into the AV game. Bezos did not tweet a response.
Zoox has been around since 2014 and despite missing some publicly announced targets (like starting a robotaxi service in San Francisco this year), has been singularly focused on creating zero-emissions vehicles that are purpose-built for autonomous ride-hailing.That means not only building a new vehicle, but also an end-to-end autonomy software stack. Zoox is not Amazon's first purchase of a company working on self-driving vehicles. In early 2019, the online behemoth invested in Aurora, a Silicon Valley startup. Amazon has also invested in electric vehicle company Rivian, potentially putting the pieces together for a fleet of self-driving zero-emission trucks to deliver the millions of items people order from the company each year. That's something Tesla can't copy.
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