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Amazon to Make Autonomous Ride-Hailing a Reality

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 06/30/2020 - 12:56

Amazon announced the acquisition of Zoox, a Californian startup already working in developing autonomous ride-hailing vehicles. Although Amazon had previously invested in other autonomous driving startups such as Rivian and Aurora, Zoox is its first acquisition in the sector. 

"Zoox is working to imagine, invent and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience," said Jeff Wilke on a statement, Amazon’s CEO of Worldwide Consumer. "Like Amazon, Zoox is passionate about innovation and about its customers and we are excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead." 

Zoox was created in 2014, with the vision to develop zero-emissions vehicles designed for autonomous ride-hailing along with an end-to-end autonomy software stack. Zoox's vehicles are thought for the ride-hailing customer while providing a unique passenger experience, according to the company. "This acquisition solidifies Zoox's impact on the autonomous driving industry," said Aicha Evans on a statement, 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." Amazon also announced the company will continue to be led by their current CEO and CTO. 

In 2019, Amazon increased its investments in autonomous driving-related companies, such as Aurora and Rivian. In July, 2019, the company, alongside Sequoia Capital and T. Row Price, participated in a US$530 million Series B round of Aurora, Forbes reported. The California-based company has created engineering partnerships with Volkswagen and Hyundai to develop autonomous vehicles. By the end of 2019, Amazon also announced its investment in Rivian, an electric vehicle company developing battery-powered pickup trucks. 

Zoox acquisition brings to mind 2012, when the tech giant acquired Kiva systems for US$777 million and that later became Amazon Robotics. Kiva, at the time, was quickly developing autonomous robots for automated warehouse management. 

Other fellow tech leaders have commented on the acquisition, including Elon Musk, who has called it "a copy." Tom Taulli has documented for Forbes US the statements of David Somo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy of ON Semiconductor, who considers Amazon’s focus on the 'last mile' delivery service and the acquisition should drive operational efficiencies. "For some companies, including Amazon, having access to autonomous driving technology is an existential issue. The autonomous train has left the station and key players need a seat on that train," James Gowers, Vice President Strategy & Business Development at Perceptive Automate, said to Forbes.

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Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst