Amazon may have just taken a big step toward self-driving delivery vehicles

The online retailer spent more than $1 billion to buy a self-driving car company called Zoox
Zoox self-driving cars
Zoox has self-driving vehicles out on the streets in Arizona and Nevada. Amazon

You’ve probably seen many stories about how Amazon plans to deliver packages via drones at some point in the future. You may have even seen the outlandish plan for Amazon drone “hives” that could sit in city centers disbursing package-carrying crafts to every corner of a city. We haven’t heard as much about self-driving vehicles taking up Amazon delivery duties. Today, however, the company spent $1.2 billion to purchase a self-driving vehicle startup called Zoox.

According to the deal, Zoox will still operate as an independent company under the Amazon umbrella in much the same way the self-driving car company Waymo maintains independence under the Alphabet hierarchy. Zoox has been around for six years, but 2020 has been rough. In April, it cut roughly 100 jobs and laid off a number of its contract workers.

Amazon hasn’t said what it plans to do with Zoox or its technology just yet, but the online retail giant has been working hard to address its pricey issue of getting packages from distribution centers to people’s homes. When Amazon acquired Whole Foods way back in 2017, many believed that was part of a plan to make the “last mile”—the last phase before it gets to your doorstep—of the fulfillment process even shorter. 

Zoox vehicles are already on the road in both Arizona and Nevada. The company posts videos of its vehicles maneuvering around on busy streets in cities and highways in retrofitted Toyota Highlander SUVs, sans an operator. 

Back in April, Zoox teased a “completely electric, bi-directional” vehicle of its own that would be small enough to easily navigate city streets. Its wheels would also rotate beyond the range of a normal car’s to allow it to move laterally.

In a statement from Amazon, the company claimed it was intent on helping Zoox fulfill its vision for widespread, self-driving transportation. But, it seems unlikely they won’t want to throw a couple packages in the backseat to go along for the ride. 

Amazon’s big purchase wasn’t the only big story you may have missed in the tech world this week. Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories that happened while you were waiting for the weekend. 

Apple made some big announcements

Earlier this week, Apple’s all-digital WWDC event took place on the internet. The company unveiled details about its upcoming iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and Mac Big Sir operating systems. Apple also went public with the fact that it’s switching away from Intel processors in its computers, opting instead to make its own silicon.

Microsoft is permanently closing all of its stores

All of the Microsoft stores will officially close with some larger ones converting into experience centers. You served your purpose—you were the real-life Sabre stores from The Office.

Google Photos got even better

The best photo storage app around got better this week, and now its Memories feature won’t constantly remind you of your ex, which is a big upgrade.

Acer is making an energy drink

PC purveyor, Acer, had a big announcement event earlier this week to show off some new hardware. Oddly enough, the company also announced its own energy drink called Predator Shot