Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report has formally cut a deal to buy driverless-vehicle startup Zoox for more than $1 billion in a move that will accelerate the e-commerce giant’s reach into autonomous-vehicle technology and implementation.
Amazon will pay more than $1 billion to buy Foster City, Calif.-based Zoox, an autonomous-vehicle startup with nearly 1,000 developers and staff that has been working on perfecting driverless vehicle automation since 2018.
Specific details of the transaction weren’t immediately available. Discussions between the two companies first came to light at the end of May.
"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."
"This acquisition solidifies Zoox's impact on the autonomous driving industry," said Aicha Evans, 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."
The acquisition is one of Amazon’s biggest bets yet on automation technology, something it has long invested in throughout its supply chain to move goods and services as quickly as possible but has struggled with the so-called last mile of package delivery.
It is also a clear move to cut one of its persistently higher costs: The delivery person.
Indeed, with automation, a huge part of its fulfillment centers, where robots, conveyor belts, and tracking systems allow everything from pool floaties to shoe polish to be plucked and shipped quickly and efficiently, Amazon and other e-tailers have long struggled with getting their products from warehouses to front doors.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has for years been looking to cut those costs - by creating Amazon’s own delivery fleet, by looking into drone and even robot delivery, and now by potentially acquiring driverless car companies like Zoox.
Zoox, in particular, stands out in how it has approached driverless technology, focusing on developing a bi-directional vehicle with no steering wheel or discernible front or back that allows it to hold packages - and people - in more flexible formats, and also travel in either direction.
That said, Zoox is not the only autonomous-driving vehicle company on the proverbial road.
Waymo and General Motors' (GM) - Get Report Cruise as well as Aurora Innovation founded by former alums of Google (GOOGL) - Get Report, Uber (UBER,) - Get Report and Tesla (TSLA) - Get Report, have also been making inroads in creating a driverless package and people movers.
Shares of Amazon were up 0.44% at $2,755.78 in trading on Friday.