Amazon has acquired US self-driving startup Zoox, marking its first major step into the driverless cars market.
The deal is valued at more than $1bn, the Information first reported. Amazon declined to confirm the size of the acquisition.
Zoox chief executive Aicha Evans and chief technology officer Jesse Levinson will continue to lead Zoox as a standalone business, the two companies said in a statement.
It has been suggested that Amazon may use the acquisition to incorporate self-driving technology into its logistics network, with the potential to develop a driverless fleet down the line.
Amazon took a stake in self-driving startup Aurora and electric carmaker Rivian last year, prompting rumours about its intentions in the sector.
It joins fellow tech giant Alphabet and its driverless unit Waymo, which has been trialling self-driving cars on streets for a number of years.
Uber similarly has skin in the game, raising more than $1bn in investment for its autonomous fleet from the likes of Toyota last year. Meanwhile Apple is known to have been developing driverless technology for several years, though it has yet to debut a physical model.
Founded in 2014, Zoox was last publicly valued in a private fundraising round at $3.2bn two years ago. Investors who stand to gain from the deal include Breyer Capital, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Lux Capital and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.
“Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief executive of its worldwide consumer division.
“Like Amazon, Zoox is passionate about innovation and about its customers, and we’re excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead.”
Zoox was forced to suspend driving trials of its technology earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is also reported to have laid off about 100 employees in April.