Aicha Evans who is the CEO of the self-driving technology development company Zoox, talks about autonomous cars during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP via Getty Images) AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
On June 26th, Amazon announced via their blog they are acquiring autonomous ride-hailing vehicle startup Zoox. Financial terms of the acquisition were disclosed. However, the Financial Times says Amazon paid $1.2B for Zoox. Launched in 2014, Zoox began with the vision of producing zero-emissions vehicles for autonomous ride-hailing services. Patent analytics provides insights into why Amazon chose to acquire Zoox over the many other alternatives available.
Six Key Insights Into The Acquisition Using Patent Analytics
Patents are an excellent proxy for innovation and patent portfolios are essential for competing in fast-growing new markets. Interested to see what motivated Amazon from a patent standpoint to acquire Zoox, I asked PatentSight, A Lexis Nexis Company, who specializes in cleaning and refining patent data and providing advanced patent analytics for an analysis of the patent landscape of autonomous driving.
PatentSight is based on manually supervised and scientifically developed algorithms trained with best-in-class patent ownership data that meets and exceeds the standards of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). PatentSight’s analysis found patent filings for autonomous driving have increased 10-fold in the last ten years.
The Competitive Impact of Zooxs’ patent portfolio was scaling above its size as a startup as early as 2018, making it a prime candidate for acquisition. Tech companies, including Alphabet and Amazon, were achieving greater patent density than traditional auto manufacturers. Like Zoox, they are relying on their expertise in AI and machine learning to create extensive patent portfolios. Traditional, mature car manufacturers have relatively large portfolios with average patent quality. OEMs follow the traditional car manufacturers in terms of portfolio size and quality. Among the traditional car manufacturers and the OEMs in the analysis, only GM, Ford and Volvo Cars had in 2018 an average Competitive Impact™ above the average score of 2.5 for Autonomous Driving.
Using patent analytics to find new insights into why Amazon acquired Zoox provides a fascinating glimpse into how startups with deep AI and machine learning expertise can attain comparable patent quality as their much larger competitors. Amazon needed to fill gaps in its autonomous vehicle patent portfolio and Zoox’s complementary patent strengths in Driving Assistance, Signaling and Cruise Control are a perfect fit. Amazon saves years of Intellectual Property (IP) development in autonomous vehicles and has a ready-to-go beta test lab in their warehouses to test out new logistics use cases.