Amazon moving in on a Silicon Valley self-driving startup, report says

Amazon is reported to be in advanced talks with autonomous-vehicle firm Zoox with a view to acquiring the Silicon Valley-based startup.

Sources claiming to have knowledge of the discussions told the Wall Street Journal that while nothing has yet been finalized, a deal could be “weeks away.”

Since its formation six years ago, Zoox has been developing autonomous technology for an electric-powered robo-taxi that riders will be able to summon using a smartphone app. The company recently posted a video showing a modified Toyota Highlander driving autonomously around the streets of San Francisco and performing a variety of challenging maneuvers.

Digital Trends has reached out to Amazon for comment on the reported talks and we will update this piece when we hear back.

While Zoox hasn’t confirmed reports of Amazon’s interest, it hasn’t denied them, either, saying in a statement that it has been “receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties” and working with a partner “to evaluate such interest.”

Amazon may be keen to use the technology for its complex delivery operation. The company is already testing small autonomous robots for last-mile deliveries to customers homes, and has been working for many years on a delivery system using autonomous drones, though strict flight regulations mean the service could still be a ways off.

It could also use it to enhance the fleets of robots already deployed by Amazon at many of its fulfillment centers to help prepare customer orders.

The online shopping giant has previously demonstrated an interest in autonomous-vehicle technology. A 2015 patent, for example, describes a system that helps autonomous cars deal with reversible lanes that change direction depending on the volume of traffic — such lanes are sometimes seen in busy cities during rush hours when large amounts of traffic head in during the morning and out later in the day.

More recently, in 2019, Amazon took part in a $530 million funding round for Aurora Innovation, another Silicon Valley-based self-driving startup.

Amazon has been investing heavily in its shipping operation, speeding up delivery times, and taking on more of the work itself instead of relying on other firms. Autonomous technology could further enhance the efficiency of that operation and help to reduce costs.

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