US technology giant Amazon is buying Zoox, the driverless car company co-founded by Australian entrepreneur Tim Kentley Klay.
Amazon did not announce how much it was paying, but analysts expect the price to exceed $US1 billion ($A1.45 billion) and accelerate Amazon’s move into self-driving delivery vehicles and taxis.
Mr Kentley Klay, who was controversially ousted from the Zoox board in 2018 but maintained a stake in the company, applauded Friday’s announcement and welcomed Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.
“It’s official – Zoox’s days are to be measured in decades!” Melbourne-raised Kentley Klay, who attended Camberwell Grammar School, wrote on Twitter.
“Welcome to the party and ride of your life @JeffBezos and @Amazon! Go team!! Go @Zoox!!!”
Zoox was started in 2014 with the vision of purpose-built, zero-emissions vehicles designed for autonomous ride-hailing and a focus on the passenger experience.
“Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience,” Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief executive of worldwide consumer, said.
“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.”
News of the deal sparked a playful jab from another autonomous vehicle technology pioneer, Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Mr Musk called Bezos a ‘copycat’ in a tweet, using a cat emoji for “cat”.
Amazon said Zoox will keep running as a separate business and continue to develop its own autonomous vehicles.
“We have made great strides with our purpose-built approach to safe, autonomous mobility, and our exceptionally talented team working every day to realise that vision,” Zoox chief executive Aicha Evans said.
“We now have an even greater opportunity to realise a fully autonomous future.”
Mr Kentley-Klay co-founded Zoox with Jesse Levinson, the son of Apple chairman Arthur Levinson, in 2012.