At a recent all-hands meeting for Amazon employees in March, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said developments in autonomous automobile technology fascinated him, according to a report by CNBC.
This was one of the reasons, he said, Amazon led a funding round in electric vehicle startup Rivian this past February.
“If you think about the auto industry right now, there’s so many things going on with Uber-ization, electrification, the connected car – so it’s a fascinating industry,” Bezos said, according to a recording of the meeting. “It’s going to be something very interesting to watch and participate in, and I’m very excited about that whole industry.”
The comments illustrate Amazon’s interest in the automobile industry, and why the company not only invested in Rivian, but also in another self-driving startup called Aurora. The technology could potentially assist Amazon in allowing for less expensive services both for itself and its customers.
Rivian is known for its electric trucks, and recently scored a $500 million investment from Ford. Aurora is run by former Google, Uber and Tesla employees, and is worth upwards of $2 billion after a $530 million funding round in February.
Amazon has been investing heavily in private companies recently. Its ownership stake in private entities has grown to about $1.4 billion in the last quarter, marking the first time it has crossed the $1 billion benchmark since 2015.
The moves with Rivian and Aurora could eventually help with Amazon’s core business, according to analysts. Self-driving cars, for example, could assist with Amazon’s last-mile logistics and reduce its shipping costs, which climbed 21 percent to $7.3 billion in the last quarter.
Another reason Amazon may be drawn to Rivian is because of its CEO R.J. Scaringe. Bezos called him “incredible,” and praised Scaringe’s storied experience in the auto space, saying that the man’s personality fits within the Amazon culture.
“As with most of our major investments and acquisitions, we’re always looking for mission-driven entrepreneurs – missionaries instead of mercenaries,” Bezos said. “And the guy who leads the company, a guy named R.J., is one of the most missionary entrepreneurs I’ve ever met.”