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Amazon Signs Agreement to Buy Self-Driving Startup Zoox for More Than $1 Billion

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【Summary】E-commerce giant Amazon is making its first big investment in self-driving technology and announced it signed an agreement to purchase Silicon Valley-based self-driving startup Zoox. The company developed an autonomous bi-directional vehicle from the ground up, as well as the entire software stack that controls it.

Eric Walz    Jun 26, 2020 9:00 AM PT
Amazon Signs Agreement to Buy Self-Driving Startup Zoox for More Than $1 Billion

E-commerce giant Amazon is making its first big investment in self-driving technology and announced it signed an agreement to purchase Silicon Valley-based self-driving startup Zoox.

Rumors of Amazon's interest in Zoox began to surface last month. In early May, Zoox confirmed it hired investment bank Qatalyst Partners to work on a possible acquisition and reports began to emerge that Amazon was interested in acquiring the mobility startup. 

The terms of the acquisition were not announced, however The Information reports that Amazon will pay more than $1 billion for Zoox.

Zoox was founded in 2014 with a mission to build a vehicle to carry passengers as part of a robotaxi service that would rival Uber. Unlike many of the other startups working to develop self-driving software, Zoox developed an entire bi-directinal vehicle from the ground up, as well as the entire software stack for autonomous driving.

Zoox raised almost $1 billion in funding to date. Zoox's latest funding round was in October 2019, when the company raised $200 million in new convertible note funding. 

Amazon might be interested in Zoox's autonomous bi-directional vehicle for autonomous deliveries in the future that could transform Amazon's logistics business. In addition, Amazon might develop its own ride-hailing network using Zoox's self-driving vehicles and technology. 

Whatever the case, Amazon is gaining a strong foothold in the autonomous mobility space with its acquisition of Zoox and has the deep pockets to scale any autonomous mobility or delivery service to its needs.

"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."

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In December 2018, Zoox was the first company to receive approval from California regulators to operate an autonomous shuttle pilot and pick up passengers, as long as a safety driver was behind the wheel as backup. 

Zoox will continue to operate under its current leadership Aicha Evans, Zoox CEO, and Jesse Levinson, Zoox co-founder and CTO, will continue to lead the team. In Jan 2019, Zoox hired Evans from Intel as its new CEO after the sudden firing of co-founder and former CEO Tim Kentley-Klay in August 2018

Evans was previously the Chief Strategy Officer at Intel, a position she held for 12 years.

"This acquisition solidifies Zoox's impact on the autonomous driving industry," said Evans. "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."

In the summer of 2017, Zoox first made headlines when the young startup poached 17 engineers from Apple's secretive "Project Titan" autonomous car project. Zoox also recruited other employees from Tesla.

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

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

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