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Amazon creates a self-driving team

A new team at Amazon is investigating the role of driverless vehicles for the company (Photo: Amazon Press)

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Kate Mann
Kate Mann
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Could driverless technology be a prime solution for the expanding e-commerce giant?

In 2017, driverless technology is on the radar of many companies outside the car industry. Whilst certain firms – think Google or Intel – are interested in the production of the vehicles themselves, others are more concerned with how they could use them – think Uber, or now Amazon. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the e-commerce firm has quietly created a team of around a dozen people tasked with exploring the role of self-driving vehicles for the business. Formed just over a year ago, their main concern is how to deliver goods faster and more cheaply. The company currently spends billions of dollars on shipping each quarter.

According to a TechCrunch article, Amazon is looking for ways to own more of their delivery and shipping chain logistics. The small team is said to be investigating options provided by self-driving trucks and cars, warehouse vehicles, such as forklift trucks, and drones.

One of the key benefits of driverless technology for a company like Amazon is the removal of restrictions introduced by humans, such as tiredness. Whilst human truck drivers need to take regular breaks, autonomous trucks do not. As reported by TechCrunch, platooning (several trucks in an automated convoy) could make large deliveries more efficient, whilst drones or future ride-sharing services could be utilized for the last mile. 

Amazon is by no means the first company to be investigating the potential of driverless technology for deliveries. Ford also recently revealed a concept for a fully autonomous delivery vehicle that could also act as a hub for drones. Furthermore, increased efficiency provided by truck platooning is seen as a key benefit of automated technology for the transport industry as a whole.   

At present, it is unclear whether Amazon will develop driverless technology in the future. Interestingly, they recently secured a new patent that would enable driverless vehicles to communicate with road infrastructure. Whilst little information is available, reports speculate that the technology could also play a key role in Amazon’s in-house logistics and delivery infrastructure.

Read more from TechCrunch here or The Wall Street Journal here (subscription only)

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Kate Mann
Kate Mann
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