Amazon acquiring Zoox to advance autonomous ride-hailing

Original article was published on Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Amazon has announced on its blog that it has signed an agreement to acquire Zoox. The California-based autonomous ride-hailing vehicle developer’s management—Aicha Evans, CEO, and Jesse Levinson, Cofounder and CTO—will continue to lead the team as a standalone business.

“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.”

“Since Zoox’s inception six years ago, we have been singularly focused on our ground-up approach to autonomous mobility,” said Jesse Levinson, Zoox Cofounder and CTO. “Amazon’s support will markedly accelerate our path to delivering safe, clean, and enjoyable transportation to the world.”

Founded in 2014 by Tim Kentley-Klay and Levinson, son of Apple Inc. chairman Arthur D. Levinson, who was developing self-driving technology at Stanford University, Zoox’s vision is to create a purpose-built, zero-emissions vehicles designed for autonomous ride-hailing—along with an end-to-end autonomy software stack. The company’s name is derived from the creature Zooxanthellae, which like its production vehicle is intended to rely on renewable energy and has a symbiotic relationship, not with coral reefs but with people.

In the last few years, the secretive company’s development seems to have accelerated. By July 2018, it had raised $800 million in venture capital, valuing the company at $3.2 billion, and in December of that year became the first company to gain approval for providing self-driving transport services to the public in California. Since January 2019, Evans, who was previously the Chief Strategy Officer at Intel, has led the company.

Zoox’s ground-up vehicle focuses on the ride-hailing customer, with tightly integrated features designed to provide a revolutionary passenger experience. The company’s approach to invention is intended to provide flexibility and the means to iterate rapidly to deliver a superior experience for customers. It claims its completely autonomous approach in complex environments is unique in that it is driving in cities and on highways, making unprotected lefts and rights on red, and yielding to pedestrians and passing double-parked vehicles. It is developing “more than just a car with a computer” by applying the latest in automotive, robotics, and renewable energy to design a symmetrical, bidirectional, zero-emissions vehicle from the ground up to solve the unique challenges of autonomous mobility.