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SAN FRANCISCO/SEATTLE — Amazon.com Inc. is in talks to buy driverless vehicle startup Zoox Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would accelerate the e-commerce giant’s automation efforts.
Other companies in the automotive and chip industries have also held talks with Zoox about a potential investment, the people said. At least one other business besides Amazon has offered to buy the company, they added. Zoox is unlikely to sell for less than the $1 billion that it has already raised, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations.
“Zoox has been receiving interest in a strategic transaction from multiple parties and has been working with Qatalyst Partners to evaluate such interest,” the startup 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 wanted to build a fully driverless car by this year. However, after a 2018 funding round that valued Zoox at $3.2 billion, the startup’s board voted to oust CEO 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.”
Analysts have speculated that the company, now run by Aicha Evans, could attract interest from Amazon or Apple.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is in advanced talks to buy Zoox for less than the $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 Inc. in 2012 for $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. CEO 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.
Buying Zoox could help Amazon “manage rising shipping costs that we project will exceed $60 billion by 2025,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Jitendra Waral and April Kim wrote in a research note on Tuesday.