Amazon makes its biggest bet yet on self-driving by acquiring Zoox

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A key part of the negotiations reportedly revolved around Amazon’s commitment to continuing investment in the company. Zoox will reportedly operate independently from Amazon much as Twitch does.

Zoox has nearly 1,000 employees and has been working on a self-driving “bi-directional” vehicle with no steering wheel or defined front and back end. With that design, it could drive in either direction and quickly reverse course if stuck on a narrow street, for instance. That kind of feature would be greatly helpful in cities both for ride-hailing and delivery services.

Zoox planned to launch its own robotaxi service in 2020, but had to push those plans forward as its software wasn’t ready. To date, Waymo is the only company operating a driverless services (in suburban Phoenix), but has said that doing so in crowded metropolitan areas would be more difficult by “orders of magnitude.”

That’s been a very common theme in the self-driving industry. We expected to see fully autonomous (Level 5) driverless cars by now, but there still aren’t even any Level 3 vehicles that could take over for a human in certain circumstances. As it stands now, many billions have been spent on the technology but no one is really making any money off it yet. The deal could be official unveiled as early as today.

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