Wednesday, February 21, 2018 by David Williams
Amazon is slowly but surely becoming one of the most influential tech companies in the world. In fact, it has probably become one of the most influential companies of all time. The online retail giant has been trying to invest heavily into automation and robotics technology in the past few years, and now it has been revealed that it has plans to cover the so-called last mile when it comes to deliveries as well.
In a recent patent application, it was determined that the Seattle-based company is planning to launch an entire system that would allow them to possibly deliver packages to customers without the use of human staff. To do this, they intend to rely on “autonomous ground vehicles” (AGV) that are capable of transporting parcels from their own delivery trucks and proceed to place them either at a customer’s front door or right inside their homes.
The details of this system have been laid out in a document submitted to the U.S. Patent Office, where the online retail giant has also hinted at the possibility of tying it up with its existing Amazon Key service, which lets couriers enter a customer’s home and leave packages directly, or something similar. In any case, the system will rely heavily on robots and automation technologies.
According to a report on the patent, Amazon’s plan involves using a small, box-shaped droid that can open a door’s smart lock all by itself, and thus make deliveries straight to a customer’s home even while they are away at work or in school. Such a droid could even make deliveries in the middle of the night.
It is said that the design of Amazon’s planned boxy droid is not that different from the tub-like cargo vehicles once used by a company called Starship Technologies to make fast food deliveries in Greenwich. Amazon’s take on it will reportedly be much higher-level, using sophisticated imaging and navigation technologies as well as proximity sensors to make its way during deliveries. It will also include warning lights and built-in mechanisms to “assist with open access barriers” like gates and doors.
Other features of the AGVs, as detailed in Amazon’s patent application, could include a touchscreen display, a built-in keypad, and a biometric scanner for added security and convenience. All of this will likely be used by the AGVs to let customers sign and confirm receipt of their deliveries.
Such a system will undoubtedly be celebrated by a wave of early adopters, eager to go shopping from the comfort of their own homes and have their orders delivered straight to their doorstep, all from their mobile phones. But it may be necessary to proceed with caution in this regard, as a fully-realized system like the one detailed in the Amazon patent application can open up your home — as well as your family — to unintended consequences.
As with Amazon Key, which has users install a highly-advanced lock and camera system that can be controlled remotely in order to let couriers drop off goods right inside their houses, there are potential risks relating to user privacy and safety. And since the proposed system in the Amazon patent application will be entirely automated with provisions for doing things during late hours when most people would be fast asleep, that could quickly turn into an undesirable situation where a customer’s property or worse, his or her family, become exposed to harm.
As of this time’s writing, Amazon has refused to comment on any reports on their proposed system. But even now, it’s clear that if it ever gains any prominence, it could result in a further loss of privacy and reduced safety for many Amazon customers that end up using it.
Read more about the latest moves conducted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in JeffBezosWatch.com.