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Amazon Acquires Zoox and Moves Forward on Autonomy

So far 2020 has been a hard year for autonomy. The recent purchase of Zoox, the California ride-hailing autonomy company, by the world's largest retailer on the planet may change that. [1-5] 

The 1.2billion plus purchase comes along with statements from both Amazon and Zoox that suggest the small company will be able to continue its development of robo-taxis. [6] However, there seems little doubt that Amazon, an online retailer, isn’t seriously interested in cutting costs of its massive logistics and delivery system. 

The senior vice president of ON Semiconductor, a key player in the automotive space, made the following comment about the Zoox acquisition: “This fits well into Amazon’s model for automating its distribution network spanning from warehouse robotics to last-mile delivery services.”[4] Amazon is no stranger to absorbing smaller companies and applying their tech to bring efficiency to the distribution workflow. In 2012 the purchase of Kiva led to a reduction in costs, and personnel, in Amazon warehouses by automating much of the movement of packages. [6] 

Amazon can have it both ways: improved delivery efficiency and speed by automating last-mile solutions and having a robo-taxi service. Amazon has deep pockets, and the acquisition of Zoox may signal changing fortunes for autonomous vehicles, while also signaling tough times ahead for traditional automakers.

 

Personal comment

This purchase happens at a time when other ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are struggling and their own robo-taxi projects have slowed down. [2] That a large player like Amazon is really entering the self-driving game is exciting news. Others have envisioned what it may look like if a company of this sort gained world-wide dominance in the transportation space.[7] The long-term future is hard to predict, especially with technology as complex and difficult as full self-driving. Even so, I hope this shift is one that makes the end of 2020 one with some positive news for the self-driving future. 

 

Written by Joshua Bronson, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-05-01 The Impact of Covid-19 on future mobility solutions

2. 2020-05-21 Will Covid-19 Harm the Quest to Perfect Autonomous Driving?

3. 2020-02-28 It’s 2020. Where are our self-driving cars?

4. 2020-06-28 Amazon’s Vision for Autonomous Delivery

5. 2019-05-15 Amazon Surpasses Walmart as the World’s Largest Retailer

6. 2020-06-26 Amazon Buys Self-Driving Company Zoox For $1.2B And May Rule The World

7. 2017-11-05 In 2037 the world’s last 5 automakers vie for Amazon’s 125-million car order