Zoox’s autonomous vehicle technology on a retrofitted Toyota Highlander in Las Vegas, one of two markets where it has been conducting road tests. (Zoox Photo)

$1.2 Billion Deal Solidifies Amazon’s ‘Last Mile’ Delivery Strategy

Amazon is poised to move further into robotics and autonomous vehicles by acquiring Zoox, an electric self-driving car company with plans to deploy an on-demand autonomous taxi service, according to a scoop by The Information, citing insiders.

Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox, the autonomous vehicle company Amazon bought for $1.2 billion.

A geekwire.com story on the reported $1 billion purchase ranks the acquisition among the largest in Amazon’s history, more than it paid for Twitch, Ring and Zappos, all were important buys for building the company. Zoox comes with a black CEO, Aicha Evans, who has headed the company for the past two years.

The deal would add cars to drones, warehouse bots, and mini delivery vehicles to Amazon’s growing fleet of autonomous machinery, which would support its “last mile delivery” goals aimed at controlling the quality of package delivery, reducing outsourcing to less reliable and often expensive delivery companies, including the U.S. Postal Service and numerous small contractors. The company will still rely heavily on FedEx and UPS until it builds its own delivery fleet to handle more than 2.5 billion packages a year.

Tesla’s focus on all-electric cars and trucks parallels Amazon’s investment in the Rivian electric-vehicle company last year. Amazon announced plans to order 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian as part of its Climate Pledge last year. It appears that Zoox is another piece of the puzzle in expanding its delivery abilities.

“Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience,” Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO, Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement. “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.”

Not everyone was happy with the deal—two senior Zoox engineers jumped ship to join Waymo, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal. COVID-19 had prompted Zoox and other companies to cut employees and other autonomous car companies saw it as an opportunity to recruit talent.

Elon Musk of Tesla tweeted a taunt, calling Bezos a copycat. Musk realizes the deal could lead to direct competition with his company:

For years, Musk and his Tesla team have been fine-tuning an autonomous driving system that could eventually reach full self-driving status, making waves along the way. Several other companies are developing self-driving vehicles, but Tesla remains the industry leader.

California-based Zoox is currently testing Toyota Highlanders that have been retrofitted with self-driving capabilities in San Francisco and Las Vegas. Before the coronavirus outbreak hit, Zoox was planning to announce a unique type of bidirectional vehicle later this year and begin testing its own robo-taxi service next year.

Lots of humorous, interesting takes on the deal are in two geekwire.com story links below. Two of the richest and smartest men in America are goading each other into bigger projects. Currently, Musk is prodding Amazon and Bezos as only he can.

read more on the acquisition at geekwire.com

read about Musk’s jabs at this link