Amazon today announced It acquires Zoox, a startup that develops autonomous vehicle systems for hail trips. None of the companies announced the terms of the contract, however according to to the information and the Financial TimesThe purchase price is over $ 1.2 billion.
It is Amazon's largest bet so far on autonomous technologies – whether it is vehicles, aviation or industry. Last February, Amazon contributed to the $ 530 million Series B round of driverless auto and truck startup Aurora. In March 2012, Amazon acquired the warehouse robotics startup Kiva Systems for $ 775 million.
With Zoox, Amazon, which delivers more than 10 billion items worldwide every year, wants to reduce costs. Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that self-driving technology could save the tech giant over $ 20 billion in shipping costs annually as it becomes an excellent competitor to companies like UPS, DHL, and FedEx. By 2023, Amazon is expected to spend $ 90 billion on logistics and expand its truck trailer, sea freight, last mile delivery truck, and cargo flight networks.
"Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous driving experience," said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon's global consumer, in a statement. "Like Amazon, Zoox is excited about innovation and its customers. We look forward to helping the talented Zoox team turn their vision into reality in the years to come."
The story so far
Zoox was founded in 2014 by Australian artist designer Tim Kentley Klay and Jesse Levinson, son of Apple chairman Arthur D. Levinson, who developed self-driving technology at Stanford. In December 2018, Zoox received approval for the first time to offer driverless transportation services to the public in California. In January 2019, the company appointed Intel's former CEO, Aicha Evans, as CEO, signaling a shift in priorities from conception to commercialization.
Zooster, based in Foster City, California, had raised over $ 990 million in venture capital at a multi-billion dollar valuation and appeared to be making progress towards a commercial launch before its live tests Tier 3 vehicles came to a standstill during the pandemic. The company recently announced plans to deploy its autonomous Highlanders in Las Vegas. It has approval from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to autonomously carry passengers, and has submitted documents to California's DMV showing that its 58 vehicles have driven 67,015 autonomous miles in San Francisco in 2019.
Zoox had hoped to get fully customized cars beyond retrofitted Highlanders that could be summoned by customers via a smartphone app. The approximately BMW i3-sized electric vehicles would have used cameras and four lidar sensors for perception, each of which covered 270 degrees. The vehicles were also equipped with all-wheel steering, active all-wheel suspension, dual drive trains and double batteries with a total capacity that is greater than that of most single batteries today.
The idea was to reduce the overload by fleet management and to minimize the return trips to base stations for overnight recharging. The Zoox shuttle-like car, which was completely driverless, was designed to operate in a shared fleet to maximize efficiency and reduce travel times.
The focus on efficiency has probably addressed Amazon's newly discovered sensitivity to conservationists. In February 2019, Amazon led a $ 700 million financing round in Rivian, a Michigan-based startup that develops electric pick-ups. According to Amazon, an estimated 4 million tons of carbon will be saved annually by 2030. Amazon plans 10,000 Rivian vehicles Deliveries will be on the road by 2022 and 100,000 on the road by 2040.
According to Amazon, Zoox founders Evans (CEO) and Levinson (CTO) will continue to run Zoox as an independent company, and Amazon will help “turn their vision of autonomous ride hail into reality”. Amazon revealed little about how it will use the technology. It could later turn Zoox's planned robo-taxis into automated vans, a task that is certain to be accomplished. According to ReutersAmazon holds more than 210 transportation-related patents, including a 2017 patent for providing on-demand transportation services through a network of autonomous vehicles.
Zoox previously said it had shown its vehicle to partners and insiders behind closed doors, but the next phase of its deployment plans is still unclear. A few months ago, Zoox According to reports 10% of the 1,000 employees were fired after 120 contract workers were fired. This has been attributed to the economic consequences of the pandemic. It also said it would pay Tesla an undisclosed amount of monetary damages and undergo an investigation to settle a trade secret theft lawsuit filed last year, in which Tesla claimed that some former employees had brought Zoox company information.
According to the informationA majority of Zoox investors – including Lux Capital, DFJ, Primavera Capital and Grok Ventures, co-founders of Atlassian, Michael Cannon-Brooks – will generate a return on the purchase. However, the reported price of $ 1 billion supports the assumption that autonomous vehicle development remains expensive. Ford and Volkswagen partner Argo AI recently completed a $ 2.6 billion round at a valuation of $ 7.25 billion. In May, Didi Chuxing's self-driving unit received $ 500 million led by SoftBank's Vision Fund 2. In March, Waymo managed to achieve a $ 750 million extension and bring the first external round to $ 3 billion.
The race has become more urgent as the pandemic hits the economy. While startups like Gatik, Optimus Ride, TuSimple and Nuro have escaped the worst so far, well-funded companies – including Cruise, Kodiak Robotics and Ike – have fired hundreds of employees together.
Analysts predict the health crisis and its impact will lead to consolidations, pending or canceled launches, and restructuring across the autonomous transportation industry. In one particular case, Ford pushed ahead with the unveiling of its self-driving service from 2021 to 2022 and Waymo CEO John Krafcik told the New York Times The pandemic delayed work by at least two months.
According to Brian Collie of the Boston Consulting Group, AVs will not be fully commercialized at least before 2025 or 2026 3 years later than originally assumed.