Jun 26, 2020

Amazon Set To Purchase Self-Driving Startup Zoox

autonomous vehicles
Jack Grimshaw
2 min
Amazon Set To Purchase Self-Driving Startup Zoox For Over $1bn
Amazon has agreed a deal to purchase Zoox, a self-driving startup, for over $1bn, as it moves to expand its autonomous vehicle technology...

The full cost of the purchase price is unlikely to be revealed by Amazon or Zoox, with the deal to be announced today.

A large majority of the investors in Zoox are set to earn the money put into the company back, with some even making positive returns. The acquisition was reported by The Wall Street Journal last month, which predicted that it would leave Zoox valued at less than the $3.2bn it achieved in a 2018 funding round.

This is the latest move in Amazon’s move to increase its investments into the car sector, following a $530mn funding round earlier in 2019. The investment was into self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation.

The deal, Amazon’s largest investment into the autonomous vehicle sector to date, will see Amazon work with Zoox to create a ride-hailing fleet, setting Amazon up to rival Waymo, the Alphabet-backed self-driving industry giant. A number of experts expect Amazon to use the acquisition to better integrate autonomous technology into its delivery network.

Zoox had originally planned on launching a pilot programme for its ride-sharing service this year, but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic globally put a halt to these plans. Zoox is just one of the many companies working in robotaxi services hit hard by the pandemic, having to make around 100 redundancies in April.

It is thought that a more efficient, long-term delivery network for Amazon would save the company up to $20bn a year. Its deal with Zoox could help the company to achieve this, creating an efficient and autonomous network.

Efforts into same-day delivery and demand for Amazon’s services have increased massively following the COVID-19 outbreak, with global lockdowns forcing people to stay home. Amazon stock has been pushed up 45% this year, now being valued at $1.37trn. The increased demand for easily, quickly delivered goods has increased as stores have had to close their doors around the world.

This is Amazon’s second-largest acquisition since the purchase of Zappos in 2009, for $1.2bn. The purchase of Whole Foods, in 2017, still tops Amazon’s acquisitions, valued at $13.7bn. Intel’s $900mn acquisition of mobility-as-a-service company Moovit is the only Big Tech deal that comes close this year.

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Jun 23, 2021

Japan Seeks to Revive Stalled Semiconductor Industry

Elise Leise
3 min
As international supply chains falter, the Japanese government intends to incentivise foreign chipmakers to build localised foundries

Post-pandemic, Japan has seen the consequences of relying solely on foreign imports for its semiconductors. Over 64.2% of its chips are usually imported from South Korea and Taiwan, leaving the country dependent on its neighbours. Industries from auto manufacturers to consumer electronics firms wait for chips, to no avail. But now, the Japanese government looks likely to put real funding behind its semiconductor industry, with top officials emphasising their support.


Domestic supply chains have never been more important. Rather than remain tied to international shipping routes during shortages and delays, governments are doing everything in their power to develop local lines of supply. But the question remains: can Japan pull it off? 


How Will Japan Pay For It? 

Herein lies our first issue. Japan’s debt has rapidly increased over the past few years, and the semiconductor industry will need roughly a trillion yen—US$9bn—in this fiscal year alone. This cost, however, pales in comparison to what Japan could lose if it fails to keep up with Europe and the US. Both nations have launched aggressive funding measures to revive their local semiconductor industries. And if Japan refuses to invest due to its debt, it could slow down progress in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to autonomous driving. 


According to Tetsuro Higashi, the former president of Tokyo Electron and Japan’s top government advisor in semiconductor strategy, ‘If we miss this opportunity now, there may not be another one’. Yet one advanced wafer fabrication factory can cost more than US$10bn, and any money poured into the industry will go fast. That’s why Japan, rather than invest trillions and trillions in failing domestic firms, is considering a second option. 


What Do They Plan To Do? 

Japan now intends to look abroad and convince overseas chip foundries to come to its shores. Its past failures mostly centred on trying to merge domestic firms that were already going through tough times. ‘This sort of made-in-Japan self-reliance approach hasn’t worked out well’, said Kazumi Nishikawa, a director at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s IT division. ‘This time the goal is to offer a strong incentive for an overseas logic foundry to come to Japan’. 


As follows, Japan will now reach out to industry partners and leaders in other countries, including the industry heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), to build Japanese bases. According to the South China Morning Post, the heart of Japan’s mission is a US$337.2mn research and development project in Tsukuba that will involve TSMC and more than 20 Japanese firms. ‘I think we need to cooperate with our overseas counterparts’, said Akira Amari, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. ‘[And] TSMC is the world’s top logic chipmaker’. 

Indeed, if that’s Japan’s strategy, the future looks bright. TSMC recently set up a venture near Tokyo to research energy-efficient 3D chips with several Japanese partners. And in the future, the multinational chipmaker may consider expanding its Japanese operations—that is, if government incentives pave the path forward.

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