Amazon has bought Zoox, a California-based startup company attempting to build a self-driving taxi service.
In a prepared statement, Jeff Wilke, head of Amazon’s worldwide consumer division said, “We’re excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead”.
The company’s current management team will remain in place.
Zoox was founded in 2014, but the Coronavirus pandemic forced the company to halt on-road testing. It also triggered the lay off of around 120 people, including the company’s roster of backup drivers.
Unlike Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving division, Zoox has yet to begin a trial service for select members of the public.
This is Amazon’s second major investment in the automotive sphere. Last year the e-commerce and cloud infrastructure giant invested US$700 million ($1 billion) in Rivian, a Detroit-based electric vehicle startup.
Rivian is currently gearing up to begin production of electric R1S SUV and R1T pickup truck by the end of 2021.
It is also developing an EV van on the same platform, and Amazon has ordered 100,000 of these vans for its delivery arm.
Amazon is well known for its efforts to cut costs, and having driverless deliveries could be one way of achieving that.
The company also has a track record for entering seemingly unrelated markets. Its dominant cloud services division, AWS, sprang out of efforts to make the company’s namesake website faster, more reliable and more flexible.
Amazon also owns Twitch, a live streaming service popular with gamers, as well Prime Video, a Netflix competitor, and Ring, a smart home and security firm.