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Amazon buys autonomous vehicle startup Zoox

Another self-driving unicorn is brought in to pasture as Amazon bets big on the future of self-driving.

That's certainly one way to make a logo.

Amazon has agreed to acquire autonomy startup Zoox for a sum in excess of $1 billion, according to sources cited by The Information. The news comes hot on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report last month indicating that such talks were taking place. The deal, confirmed in an Amazon blog post, would value Zoox at significantly lower than the $3.2 billion valuation it received during a funding round in 2018. But given the current state of the economy, a seven-digit payout is nothing to sniff at.

Zoox, which quietly started work six years ago, burst into the public consciousness last year not so much thanks to its technology but rather a lawsuit. Tesla alleged that the company improperly acquired proprietary documentation along with some poached staff.

That's a shame, because the company's technology is novel, focusing on bespoke vehicles designed exclusively for fully autonomous use. Its designing vehicles that don't even have a front or a back: They'll able to operate in either direction seamlessly and will be optimized for use in a ride-hailing environment.

Amazon indicates that Aicha Evans, Zoox CEO, and Jesse Levinson, Zoox co-founder and CTO, will stay with the company to "innovate and drive towards their mission." Exactly how that mission squares with Amazon's goals remains to be seen. The mega-retailer has made numerous investments in the automotive space, including a $700 million stake in Rivian to create an electric delivery van. So the company has its money in electric and now, perhaps, driverless vehicles, too.

Update, 9:53 a.m. Eastern: Added confirmation from Amazon.