Amazon announced Thursday that it plans to develop new technology for its autonomous delivery vehicles in Helsinki, Finland.
The Seattle-headquartered tech giant said in a blog post that it is setting up a new “Development Center” to support Amazon Scout, which is a fully electric autonomous delivery robot that is being tested in four U.S. locations.
Two dozen engineers will be based at the Amazon Scout Development Center in Helsinki initially, the company said, adding that they will be focused on research and development.
One of their main aims will be to develop 3D software that “simulates the complexity of real life” and ensures “Scout can navigate safely while making deliveries,” Amazon said.
“The Amazon Scout team in Helsinki will grow over time,” Amazon said. “We’re now hiring engineers who are at the forefront of robotics and autonomous systems technology.”
The launch of the new development center in Helsinki comes half a year after Amazon reportedly acquired local 3D modeling firm Umbra, which also has offices in the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region, according to LinkedIn. Founded in 2006, Umbra reportedly raised $3.4 million from investors before it was acquired.
“Umbra empowers 3D graphics designers and engineers to create, optimize, share and view their designs in real-time on virtually any device,” Umbra writes on its LinkedIn page. “As the established gaming industry standard in graphics optimization for more than a decade, Umbra is now redefining rapid visualization for all industry ecosystems utilizing complex 3D models.”
Amazon did not immediately respond when CNBC tried to confirm the acquisition.
It’s not uncommon for Amazon to start up in a new city following a local acquisition. Indeed, the company set up a presence in Cambridge, U.K., following the acquisition of AI start-up Evi Technologies. Amazon in the U.K. started with the acquisition of Bookpages, which is why Amazon was based in the English town of Slough for many years.
Amazon said the development center in Helsinki will work alongside Amazon staff at the Amazon Scout R&D lab in Seattle, as well as teams in Tubingen, Germany and Cambridge where Amazon has been developing delivery drones for several years.
Roughly the size of a small cooler, Amazon Scout vehicles can transport small packages along sidewalks at walking pace.
Delivery robots are widely seen as a potentially useful asset in last mile delivery but they could also replace hundreds of thousands of jobs. They’re also being developed by Starship Technologies, which was set up in 2014 by Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla.
In January, Starship said that its robots have completed 1 million deliveries in countries including the U.K., the U.S., Estonia and Germany.