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Amazon set to buy autonomous vehicle developer Zoox

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Flush with increased earnings as the coronavirus pandemic has caused Americans to get delivery of everything from groceries to facemasks, Amazon is looking to acquire autonomous vehicle (AV) technology company Zoox in an effort to boost their footprint in the self-driving and electric powered vehicle market. 

Zoox is developing SAE Level 5 automated self-driving taxis which can maneuver through busy city streets. The Zoox website claims, “Zoox is driving autonomously in ways that no one else has shown. We are applying the latest in automotive, robotics, and renewable energy to design an a…zero-emissions vehicle from the ground up to solve the unique challenges of autonomous mobility.”

Amazon has reportedly offered less than $3.2 billion for the company, below the company’s stated value in 2018. The acquisition would add resources to Amazon’s attempt to strengthen its expanding logistics and delivery network. 

Amazon has recently invested $530 million in AV startup Aurora Innovation as well as another significant investment in electric car manufacturer Rivian which will produce 100,000 delivery vans for Amazon within the next ten years. 

Wall Street analysts indicate that Amazon could save $20 billion a year in delivery and shipping costs if it can develop a reliable self-driving technology. Experts also predict that with such technology, Amazon may look to compete with Uber and Lyft by rolling out a cab-hailing platform utilizing a fleet of AV cabs.

Amazon is also hoping to capitalize on existing Level 4 AV technology which can already be used to haul freight cross country with self-driving long-haul trucks. Zoox has been working toward SAE Level 5 which delivers true autonomy with emergency safety features and protocols to ultimately deliver someone or something from one place to another in a completely driverless environment.

Recent earnings reports from Amazon show the retail goliath saw sales climb 29% in North America and 18% internationally at the beginning of 2020. The company’s stock has also risen, although investors were leery of the fact that Amazon would need to absorb approximately $4 billion in costs related to the pandemic.   

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