Amazon in talks to buy autonomous vehicle start-up Zoox - TechCentral

Amazon in talks to buy autonomous vehicle start-up Zoox

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. Image: Steve Jurvetson

Amazon.com is in talks to buy driverless vehicle startup Zoox, according to a person familiar with the matter, a deal that would accelerate the e-commerce giant’s automation efforts.

“Zoox has been receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties and has been working with Qatalyst Partners to evaluate such interest,” the start-up said. It declined to comment on Amazon’s interest. A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment.

Zoox had outsized ambition and financial backing. The start-up raised about US$1-billion and wanted to build a fully driverless car by this year. However, after a 2018 funding round that valued Zoox at $3.2-billion, the start-up’s board voted to oust CEO Tim Kentley-Klay. The executive criticised the move, saying the directors were “optimising for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress”.

Dow Jones reported that Amazon is in advanced talks to buy Zoox for less than the $3.2-billion valuation from 2018.

Amazon is willing to spend heavily to automate its e-commerce business. The online retail giant purchased warehouse robot-maker Kiva Systems in 2012 for $775-million and now has tens of thousands of robots in warehouses around the world.

Paying drivers to deliver packages is still one of the biggest costs in the company’s operation, though. CEO Jeff Bezos announced plans for drone delivery in 2013, though this has yet to materialise at scale. Last year, Amazon revealed an experimental delivery robot called Scout in the Seattle area that rolls on sidewalks like a shopping cart.  — Reported by Katie Roof and Spencer Soper, (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP

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