Amazon.com Inc. has created a team focused on driverless-vehicle technology to help navigate the retail giant’s role in the shake-up of transportation, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people briefed on the matter,.
Amazon quietly formed the team, which has comprised about a dozen employees, more than a year ago as part of its broader ambition to transport more of its goods itself. For now, Amazon doesn’t intend to build a fleet of vehicles, according to these people. Instead, the team serves as an in-house think tank to figure out how to leverage autonomous vehicles.
The initiative, still in its early phases, could help the Seattle-based company overcome one of its biggest logistical complications and costs: delivering packages quickly.
Amazon could use autonomous vehicles including trucks, forklifts and drones to move goods. In addition, driverless cars could play a broader role in the future of last-mile delivery, enabling easier package drop-offs, experts say.
Amazon hosted an event last week titled “Radical Transportation Salon” to discuss the future of transportation with other companies, the people said. The event, spearheaded by H.B. Siegel, whose responsibilities at Amazon include new ideas, in part targeted experts in autonomous vehicles.
Tech giants and auto makers are in a race to develop autonomous-vehicle technology that, while unproven, has the potential to shake up what Deloitte Consulting estimates to be the US$2 trillion in annual revenue tied to the automotive industry.
Waymo LLC, the self-driving tech unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc.; General Motors Co., Tesla Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. are among the many global companies aiming to put self-driving vehicles on the road in the near future. They are joined by Silicon Valley startups eager to beat these bigger companies to market and players such as Apple Inc., whose intentions haven’t become clear.
There have been early signs of Amazon’s interest in autonomous-vehicle technology. In January, Amazon won a patent for coordinating autonomous vehicles in a roadway.
A job posting on Amazon’s site calls for a research scientist “to develop future mobility and transportation systems” at Amazon Robotics, which largely focuses on the company’s warehousing technology.
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