Amazon in talks to buy self-driving car start-up Zoox

Founded in 2014, Zoox wants to create a driverless system, build a ride-hailing network and manufacture a bespoke autonomous vehicle at scale

                                

Amazon is said to be in talks to acquire Zoox, a self-driving start-up, which would mark the group’s first purchase of a self-driving start-up. 

Founded in 2014, Zoox wants to create a driverless system, build a ride-hailing network and manufacture a bespoke autonomous vehicle at scale. 

Unlike Cruise, the self-driving company backed by General Motors, or Argo AI, which has support from Volkswagen and Ford, Zoox would require huge funding but does not have a major automotive partner. 

Like many other companies this year, Zoox has suffered with the coronavirus crisis. It has grounded its fleet and the company has been forced to lay off about 100 employees, representing 10 per cent of its workforce. 

Amazon was a lead investor in a $530m funding round for Aurora, a rival autonomy start-up led by Chris Urmson, former chief engineer of Waymo. 

Before coronavirus, Zoox’s test fleet of modified Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicles were a common sight in San Francisco and Las Vegas. But the company has also developed a fully autonomous vehicle that lacks a steering wheel or pedals and features carriage-style seating. 

That vehicle has not been introduced to the public but a service using it was scheduled to be launched in trial format this year before being deployed more widely next year.

Two years ago, Zoox was valued by investors at $3.2bn, when it raised $500m. The company’s backers include Breyer Capital, led by the billionaire venture capitalist Jim Breyer, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. 

A person close to the matter said Toyota and Zoox held several discussions late last year about the Japanese carmaker taking a stake in the company. 

Amazon has not commented on the matter. 

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