Amazon in Talks to Acquire Autonomous Vehicle Startup Zoox

Amazon is in advanced talks to acquire self-driving car startup Zoox as it looks to expand its autonomous vehicle capabilities to address massive delivery costs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon has already invested heavily in autonomous technology. It was part of a 2019 funding round for Aurora Innovation which raised over $530 million, and was lead investor in a $700 million funding round raised by Rivian Automotive LLC.

Zoox told the WSJ in a statement it “has been receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties and has been working with Qatalyst Partners to evaluate such interest.”

Amazon created an internal driverless vehicle team in 2016 to explore use of the technology in an effort to handle more deliveries itself. In 2019, its shipping costs were about 12% of gross merchandise value sold, and is projected to expand at a CAGR of 24% through 2023, according to FreightWaves.

A number of players are in the autonomous vehicle game, including Uber and Lyft, UPS (in partnership with Alphabet’s Waymo and through an investment in TuSimple) and Walmart, also with Waymo. General Motors is another development leader with its Cruise unit.

In addition, there are several companies involved in developing and bringing to market autonomous robot delivery systems, including FedEx (in partnership with DEKA Development & Research), DoorDash (using bots from Starship Technologies), Amazon (again) and Postmates, which developed its own delivery bot, Serve.

MCM Musings: autonomous vehicles and delivery bots would seem like a novelty act, were it not for all the major players, investments and tests involved. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio it seems isn’t a particular fan, having banished FedEx’s Roxo bots from the metropolis last fall after they showed up uninvited for a special event. Delivery bots have become adept at climbing up and onto sidewalks and even up a set of front stairs. Cameras and sensors allow them to detect and avoid obstacles and pedestrians, unfortunately an easier task these days. On the autonomous vehicle front, cars from Cruise (purchased by GM in 2016) have reached an average of 12,221 miles driven without human intervention, while Alphabet’s Waymo has topped that at 13,219.

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