Amazon Looks To French Tech For Self-Driving Forklifts

Amazon Balyo deal

Amazon has signed a seven-year deal with French robotics company Balyo, which has a navigation system that turns forklifts into self-driving vehicles.

The deal stipulates that Amazon will receive stock warrants representing up to 29 percent of Balyo’s capital. The eCommerce giant will receive the entire 29 percent if it orders up to 300 million euros ($346 million) of Balyo products.

“This agreement … represents an unprecedented opportunity for Balyo to grow its business and supports the soundness of our investments over the years to perfect our robotic solutions,” Balyo Chief Executive Fabien Bardinet said, according to Reuters.

Balyo expects its 2018 revenue to come in at 23.3 million euros, which is a 40 percent increase from the previous year.

The deal is part of Amazon’s broader plan to cut costs and speed up delivery. The company already uses robots developed by Kiva Systems, which Amazon acquired for $775 million in 2012. Last year it was revealed that Amazon had filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014, focusing on the final leg of deliveries where trucks could hand off packages to drones, cars, bike messengers or robotic couriers to complete the deliveries. And in early 2018, the company was awarded a patent for a drone that will use recognition of human gestures and voice commands to get packages to consumers.

Amazon also sees a future in robotics beyond delivery. In April it was reported that the company is working on a secret project code-named “Vesta” that would develop a domestic robot. It’s also been speculated that Amazon is considering the launch of an automated grocery store that would be larger than its Amazon Go locations and would be staffed with robots that can pull items off the shelves and bag them for shoppers.

“Amazon will utilize technology to minimize labor,” a source close to the situation said at the time.


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