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Best enemies: fear of competition after buying Zoox? Tesla boss Elon Musk takes on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos again message


• Amazon enters Tesla’s core business with Zoox acquisition
• Bezos and Musk are already competing with their space companies Blue Origin and SpaceX
• Lawsuit between Tesla and Zoox ended recently

Last week, online retailer Amazon announced the takeover of robot car startup Zoox. The company, founded in 2014, is working on the development of an autonomous car, the first test vehicles are already on the streets of San Francisco. Unlike many of its competitors in this area, Zoox does not try to integrate the technology for independent driving into conventional cars, but instead, according to its own information, develops a vehicle that is best tailored to this purpose in order to “solve the unique challenges of autonomous mobility”. Apparently with success: According to the “Financial Times”, analysts at Citigroup praised the rate of improvement of vehicles – based on the frequency with which a human driver has to intervene – as “noteworthy”.

Amazon, too, is apparently convinced of the potential of the young company: The company headed by Jeff Bezos put more than $ 1.2 billion on the table during the takeover, according to information from the US newspaper – Amazon only paid more for the takeover of Whole Foods – and would like to continue Zoox as an independent business under the previous management. However, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is once again on a direct confrontation course with tech billionaire Elon Musk. Because like this one with the electric car manufacturer Tesla, Zoox also plans to build a robot taxi fleet according to the previous plans – also with zero-emission cars. The response of the Tesla boss to Amazon’s new acquisition was not long in coming.

Elon Musk attacks Jeff Bezos on Twitter

Elon Musk again used the short message service Twitter as a mouthpiece last Friday. There he posted an article on the Zoox takeover by Amazon and commented on it with the words: “Jeff Bezos is a copycat haha”.

Unlike Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk has been working with Tesla on fully autonomous vehicles for years. With the autopilot function, Telsas can already keep the lane and the distance to a vehicle in front, adjust the speed, react to traffic lights and stop signs and drive independently into and out of a garage. As with an assistance system, however, the driver must keep an eye on the traffic at all times. In the future, however, Teslas should be able to drive completely independently and, if they are not needed by their owner, be on the road as an autonomous robotaxis and earn money for the vehicle owner – this is the vision of Elon Musk, who is now obviously annoyed that Amazon is in controls the same direction.

Will Amazon become a serious Tesla competitor?

However, the takeover of Zoox is not Amazon’s first foray into the top dog Tesla territory. According to the “Financial Times”, the online retailer invested in the startup Aurora some time ago, which also deals with autonomous driving. The US group also owns shares in the electric truck manufacturer Rivian, from which Jeff Bezos then ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans in 2019, which are to be used successively from 2021. Amazon is also a member of the “Electric Vehicle Alliance”. Behind it is a business association that has set itself the goal of accelerating the switch to an electrified vehicle fleet. Amazon could now come closer to this goal with the Zoox takeover, because as insiders told the Financial Times, Amazon wants to use Zoox not only to build a fleet of self-driving taxis, but also to develop self-driving vans.

However, Amazon is not really in direct competition with Tesla with these plans. With autonomous delivery vehicles, the online retailer would operate in a completely different area than the e-car manufacturer and, according to the “Financial Times”, robots should also be more likely to compete with the Google startup Waymo. Because unlike Tesla, the autonomous vehicles from Zoox – at least for the time being – are apparently not intended for sale to private individuals. Citi analyst Itay Michaeli also sees “an increase in the pressure on companies like Uber, Lyft, GM-Cruise and Ford-Argo” as he told the “Finanical Times” when Amazon penetrates the Robotaxi market. So Tesla boss Elon Musk probably doesn’t have much to worry about at the moment. But it is probably also old hostilities that have been given food again by the Zoox takeover and prompted him to the angry tweet.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos share a long hostility

It is far from the first time that Elon Musk is patting Jeff Bezos. It wasn’t until the beginning of June that the Tesla boss called on Twitter, for example, to smash Amazon. In the past, however, the feud of the two tech entrepreneurs was primarily about space travel – and the competition between Musk’s space company SpaceX and Bezos Blue Origin. Since both companies competed for the takeover of the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A in 2013, Elon Musk in particular has repeatedly attracted public verbal attacks against the Amazon boss. For example, he already called Bezos a “copycat” in 2019 when Blue Origin announced plans to launch several thousand satellites – two years after SpaceX launched a project.

However, such comments seem to bounce off Jeff Bezos – Elon Musk usually doesn’t get an answer to his tweets. Only in 2019, according to “Business Insider”, Bezos apparently had a private lecture to criticize Musk’s plans for a settlement on Mars. He called on all people who want to live on Mars to spend a year on Mount Everest first. This is a “garden paradise” compared to the red planet, said Bezos, who, however, did not explicitly name either Elon Musk or SpaceX.

Elon Musk brought Zoox to justice

But not only with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, but also with the robotaxi startup Zoox himself, Elon Musk is at war. Because, according to “Automobil Produktion”, more than 100 employees have already migrated from Tesla to Zoox in the past. These included four high-ranking employees who took company secrets as part of the change of company and possibly passed them on to their new employer. Tesla therefore filed a lawsuit in March 2019 and was granted the right in April 2020, combined with a payment by Zoox of an unknown amount. The information would have saved the startup years of development work that would normally be required to “develop and maintain its own warehousing, logistics and inventory control,” said Tesla, according to The Verge. One more reason why Elon Musk should be so worried about Amazon’s takeover of Zoox.

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Image sources: Larry Busacca / VF15 / Getty Images, TOMMASO BODDI / AFP / Getty Images

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