Amazon in talks to buy driverless vehicle start-up Zoox

Dow Jones reported that Amazon is in advanced talks to buy Zoox for less than the US$3.2 billion valuation from 2018. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Amazon.com is in talks to buy driverless vehicle start-up Zoox Inc, according to a person familiar with the matter, a deal that would accelerate the e-commerce giant's automation efforts.

"Zoox has been receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties and has been working with Qatalyst Partners to evaluate such interest," the start-up said. It declined to comment on Amazon's interest. A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment.

Zoox had outsized ambition and financial backing. The startup raised about US$1 billion (S$1.42 billion) and wanted to build a fully driverless car by this year. However, after a 2018 funding round that valued Zoox at US$3.2 billion, the start-up's board voted to oust chief executive officer Tim Kentley-Klay. The executive criticized the move, saying the directors were "optimizing for a little money in hand at the expense of profound progress."

Dow Jones reported that Amazon is in advanced talks to buy Zoox for less than the US$3.2 billion valuation from 2018.

Amazon is willing to spend heavily to automate its e-commerce business. The online retail giant purchased warehouse robot-maker Kiva Systems in 2012 for US$775 million and now has tens of thousands of robots in warehouses around the world.

Paying drivers to deliver packages is still one of the biggest costs in the company's operation, though. Chief executive officer Jeff Bezos announced plans for drone delivery in 2013, though they have yet to materialize at scale. Last year, Amazon revealed an experimental delivery robot called Scout in the Seattle area that rolls on sidewalks like a shopping cart.

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