Amazon declined to comment on the cost of the deal or Mr. Wilke’s thoughts about Uber. It did not say when it expected the transaction to close.
Zoox and Amazon discussed the idea that someday, cities could have streets designated for autonomous vehicles that would be able to deliver people or packages all day, every day, the person familiar with the deal said.
Laura Gunning, an Amazon spokeswoman, said delivering products was not the reason for the deal. She pointed to the blog post, where Amazon said it hoped to bring Zoox’s “vision of autonomous ride-hailing to reality.”
Buying Zoox could help Amazon use autonomous technology in its deliveries as well as compete with ride-hailing and food delivery providers, analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote last month after The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon and Zoox were discussing a deal. The analysts estimated that industrywide, ride-hailing income would total more than $60 billion in the United States in 2023.
Zoox began talking to potential buyers and investors this year through the investment bank Qatalyst Partners, according to the person familiar with the deal. Daimler, the German automaker, and Nvidia, a chip maker, also held discussions to potentially invest in or acquire the company. Daimler and Nvidia declined to comment.
Amazon offered massive scale and resources to develop its vision.
Zoox was founded in 2014 by Tim Kentley Klay and Mr. Levinson. It aimed to build a symmetrical electric self-driving taxi service with no steering wheel or brake pedal, and raised nearly $1 billion in funding from investors including Lux Capital Management and Threshold, formerly known as DFJ. It has been valued as high as $2.7 billion.
In 2018, Mr. Kentley Klay was abruptly pushed out, a move he called “Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks” on Twitter at the time. He was replaced by Ms. Evans, a former executive at Intel.
The company was named after zooxanthellae, single-celled algae found in the tissues of some coral and jellyfish that convert sunlight into energy.