Between drones, leased planes, and its own fleet of Flex drivers, Amazon has a decent foothold in the transportation-and-delivery market. But now the company apparently has an eye on the future, and it involves driverless vehicles.
The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the case, reports that Amazon created a team last year tasked with figuring out how the e-commerce giant can use autonomous vehicles to deliver goods in the future.
The in-house think tank, as it’s described, will focus on determining how the company can quickly and efficiently deliver packages for less.
Amazon declined to provide comment to the WSJ on the program.
Sources tell the WSJ that the autonomous vehicle initiative could include trucks, forklifts, and drones, as well as sedans that would close the gap on so-called last-mile delivery.
By using autonomous vehicles, the WSJ notes Amazon could avoid some aspects of delivery that slow down the process. For instance, while people have a 10-hour limit when driving, a self-driving truck could continue uninterrupted.
With driverless vehicles, a several-day trip could be done in a fraction of the time.
Using autonomous vehicles is just the latest in Amazon’s attempts to streamline the delivery process. The company signed a 50-year-lease on an air cargo hub in Kentucky back in February, presumably to house the company’s 40 Prime Air cargo jets.
The company has also spent a considerable amount of time exploring the use of drones as a quick method of delivery.
In March, the company’s Prime Air Drone dropped of sunscreen in its first U.S. demo; the company’s UK division completed it first drop delivery in Dec. 2016.
Of course, drones won’t be filling our skies with packages just yet: FAA regulations don’t allow commercial drones to fly over any humans not involved in operating them, and requires them to stay within line of sight of their pilots at all times.