Amazon Gets New Patent For Driverless Trucks And Drones By Benjamin Roussey

Technology is taking over the world, and people are at risk of losing their jobs. Or is it the other way around? Are companies being forced to adopt machines because they don’t have enough people to work for or with them?

Such questions are on everyone’s minds these days, with AI and robots replacing the physical workforce. Some industries risk the loss of jobs, but for some industries technology is the only option when there is a physical workforce deficit. Machines don’t need a vacation, will never belong to a corrupt union, and they will never sue you either.

For instance, let’s look at the trucking industry in the US. With the rise in ecommerce, the demand for trucks has grown by leaps and bounds, because they are used to transport goods across the country. But there aren’t enough eligible truck drivers nor people who want to go into this profession. It also does not help that someone who has a DUI is not eligible to be a truck driver and there are many people in this position, so the number of people who could be a truck driver are cut short.

On top of this, the economy is booming because of tax cuts. There is more options and jobs available. This only hurts the truck profession even more.

The upper age limit for truckers is 63, and with not enough people to fill the empty positions, the limit is being extended. As ecommerce keeps growing, the demand for trucks will also keep increasing, but there will not be enough drivers. The result? Self driving trucks.

The Rise of Self-Driving Machines

Trucks make more than 10 billion deliveries a year in America. However, there’s an acute shortage of truck drivers as already explained. As truck drivers retire, the shortage of truckers will keep growing. By 2024, this deficit could cross 175,000.

Without trucks, making billions of deliveries isn’t going to be possible. That’s the reason why Amazon has gone the Uber way, and planned to launch self-driving trucks. Submitted in 2014, the patent has been approved this year. Aside from driverless cars, we could also see massive freight trucks running on their own without any human operator.

It also saves tons of money at the end of the year because you don’t have to pay a truck driver. This means more money for businesses and possibly even cheaper goods and produce. It also can be mean fresher produce in stores (machines don’t have to take sleeping or mandatory breaks). There are less delays and more efficiency when driverless vehicles are used. Aside from the driver deficit, this is one of the major reasons why Amazon has pushed for driverless vehicles for long-haul shipments.

App cab Uber has already launched driverless cars. Uber acquired the San Francisco based self-driving-truck startup Otto, and launched self-driving cabs for hire.

While there has been a lot of debate regarding the suitability of a human-less car on the streets, the service has managed to hold its ground. Although the technology is still in its nascent stage, and there are more improvements to be made, self-driving cars are here on the streets of the US (well, with a human being in the car as well). Now, it’s time for driverless trucks.

Amazon has a massive supply chain, and the company already makes use of robots and AI to provide more efficiency. For this purpose, in 2012 Amazon purchased the robotics company Kiva, which now works in the enormous fulfillment centers in this American corporation.

New Patent

Applied in 2014, Amazon has just received the patent for self-driving trucks and drones, as reported by Chain Store Age (too bad Amazon has supported policies that have been proven to hurt American workers, America, and be improper but this is another topic). The patent was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office four years ago, and is about self-driving trucks handing over packages to cars, bikes, drones, or other robotic courier systems for making deliveries, instead of trucks driving to the destination.

Although this is a landmark patent for an American corporation, and probably the only in the world right now, it isn’t the first patent Amazon has obtained for drones. Early this year, the company received a patent for a drone system that uses human gestures and voice command recognition to deliver packages.

Called Human Interaction with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the patent was filed in 2016, and the drones are supposed to have a propulsion technology to manage speed and direction. Besides, there will also be a sensor and management system to detect all kinds of sensors recognizable by the unmanned device.

That’s not all. In 2017 Amazon received the patent for a shipping label that would help packages land softly when thrown from a parachute. Although the label would look like any ordinary shipping label, it is supposed to have a built in protective cover to keep the package safe and absorb the shock of landing from a height.

The patent also states that the label could have sensors to detect the height of the falling package, and that the label could be removed if a ground based delivery method is chosen. In addition to keeping packages safe, the label would also be capable of scanning bar and QR codes, addresses and coupons.

The Future of Ecommerce

As discussed earlier, there are several problems that arise with drivers. There can be delays, complications, unexpected absence of the driver, etc.

You don’t have to rely on the driver to get the shipment to the destination. Come rain or shine, the unmanned vehicle will easily get the packages delivered (well, as long as that computer can drive safely during sunrise, fog, rain, and will not be fooled by signs that are not right and roads that may not have lines in every spot). Besides, it also saves money because drivers don’t have to be paid anymore. Therefore, human drivers’ days are numbered.

Same thing with airplane pilots but this is another topic.

Amazon is creating an app that matches shipments with driverless trucks. This directly connects shipments with the trucks, eliminating drivers from the scene. While it may take other companies a long time to create anything on the lines of Amazon or Uber, it goes without saying that the future of ecommerce lies in unmanned vehicles.

More than drones (we saw some awesome drones in Transformers 5), the concept of unmanned trucks is more relatable and practical, but both concepts will be a reality in the years ahead. With the patent for driverless trucks, Amazon is about to create history again. Though Walmart is still amazing in its own right. Competition is awesome.