Delivery by Amazon

Delivery by Amazon

Amazon continues to expand its investment in being the infrastructure of the internet…which includes how things ordered on the internet get around in the real world.

According to this

Business Insider story by Jillian D’Onfro

and other sources, Amazon is buying thousands of trailers…the big part of the trucks you see on the freeway that attach to the “tractor”.

That means you are going to see that familiar Amazon smile on the road with you (and, in the picture in that BI story, something that cleverly looks like the tape they put on packages). Yep, the new speed limit might be 65 smiles per hour. 😉

Now, these trucks probably aren’t going to be delivering directly to your house (they are too big for that)…they are likely to be taking things to and from the fulfillment centers.

For now, other companies will be providing the tractors…but I would certainly think that Amazon is looking at doing it all, warehouse to home, in the not too distant future. Once self-driving cars are fully licensed in the USA (which I think, unfortunately, may be some time after some other parts of the world have reaped the benefits of safer, more efficient transportation), I would absolutely expect Amazon to be one of the companies investigating that fully.

That puts Amazon on the roads.

I also think Amazon is going to be on the sidewalks. 🙂

I’ve been seeing stories recently about delivery robots, including the Starship:

Wired UK story by James Temperton

The story asserts that the last mile of delivery is the most expensive, which makes some sense. It’s a bit like landing a plane: that’s the hard part. There are things to avoid, and a lot more starts and stops.

The idea is that a truck gets your package close, then a little robot rolls out (sort of like the Chariot on Lost in Space leaving the Jupiter II), and brings the package to your door.

Is that less expensive than a human being doing it?

Probably…a human being has a lot of expenses outside of that block or two…sick pay, vacation pay, and so on.

Even if the robot was marginally more expensive, they would have a big cool factor…and that’s important in this scenario.

Then, of course, there is the air…and Amazon’s proposed drone program.

The biggest thing holding that up (besides propellers) 😉 , clearly, is regulation.

This is an interesting

Forbes story by Ryan Mac

about Amazon’s patent for their “sense and avoid” system for drones.

While people could presumably still shoot them down (that has happened with other drones), they might be able to avoid birds, which could be a real issue. Now that is a demo video I would want to see! Picture a big raptor, like an eagle, diving after an Amazon drone while it autonomously avoids the attack!

Step aside, Millenium Falcon! 😉

Oh, and while we are talking about videos, Amazon released this

YouTube video

The performance that they show for their drone is so advanced that they have the words “ACTUAL FLIGHT FOOTAGE NOT SIMULATED” on the screen for most of the flight footage.

Let’s see…land, air, and Jeff Bezos is sending rockets to space…the only thing we’re missing is Maritime Prime! 😉

Gee, would that mean that one day Amazon would have to worry about pirates of the non-digital kind?

Let me just wrap this up by pointing out that Amazon already does a lot of fulfillment for third party vendors. If I was at FedEx of UPS, I’d be worried about Amazon getting on the road and in the air…but I’m guessing they’ve been worried about that for some time.

Eventually, we may see Target’s packages delivered by Amazon…

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

6 Responses to “Delivery by Amazon”

  1. Karen Says:

    Pretty soon my robot will be 3D printing and comsuming everything intelligent “life” needs from the Amazon Cloud and I will be out a job along with the rest of us humans. So who will be left to pay for all this, I haven’t a clue.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      First, there are those people who will still have traditional jobs…the people who build those robots and 3D printers, for example. 🙂

      Then, there will be the people who are in “indieployment”, as I call it (and which I think is significantly under-measured). Those are people making money without traditional jobs: authors making a living through independently published e-books; people making money creating content on YouTube (and there are many); people creating arts and crafts and selling them through Etsy (and now, Amazon Handmade); and people selling things from the pre-automation days on sites like eBay, just to name a few.

      When I train, and when I do performance improvement and workflow analysis, I point out the differences between what humans do well and what computers do well.

      Computers do the same thing over and over again much better than humans do…we are terrible at that.

      People make decisions much better than computers do.

      Jobs that are primarily repetitive actions without on-the-fly decision making are certainly “in danger” of being replaced by robots.

      Jobs that are primarily decision making, that are creative, and that deeply involve rapport with humans are not, at least in the near future.

      I like a future where humans have more opportunity to do what humans do best. 🙂

      Of course, it’s worth noting that computers are getting better at making decisions, and we aren’t getting better at repetitive tasks (arguably, we are getting worse at that). In the distant future, that suggests computers catching up more to us in the creative part, and surpassing us in the repetitive part, making them net superior in many tasks…

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    The WSJ also had a short article on the trailers. They mentioned that they would be primarily used for inter-distribution, and inter-sortation center transfers.

    Among the reasons for this are to bring more of the delivery picture and expense directly under Amazon’s control; also mentioned (and shown in a picture) was to build up Amazon awareness in much the same way that Walmart and Target trailers do — the trailers will be painted to look somewhat like an Amazon delivery carton with the smile and all.

    For me robots will always be a flash in the pan until they can fold my laundry, and unload my dishwasher (:grin)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Right, sounds like the NYT and I similar things. 🙂 I particularly like the simulated packing tape on the truck.

      Robots (for example, Baxter) already can unload your dishwasher…they just aren’t market ready for home use.

      However, I define a “robot” as something created by humans which does work that a human would otherwise do. This is how I put it in my “On the Robot Beat” series at The Measured Circle:

      “A robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship).”

      With that definition, you are probably using robots very frequently…here are some times I’ve used robots just today:

      * Save my place in a book
      * Maintain my speed while driving
      * Look up the weather for me
      * Turn on the TV
      * Turn off the TV
      * Turn on the lights
      * Turn off the lights

      Many more…

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        While you are correct that there’s plenty of automation that relieves us poor humans of some drudgery, I adhere to the more popular robot notion of something like Robbie the Robot, that can adaptively function in many environments (or C3PO if you prefer :grin).

        I looked at a video of Baxter — it is far from what I have in mind for a dishwasher unloading mechanism. That thing wouldn’t fit in my kitchen, and I doubt it could empty my dishwasher, AND put the dishes and silverware away in their proper locations.

        I’m sure I could imagine (and even design) a combined dish cleaning & storage mechanism, but I’m not sure that that would accommodate the human’s need to “set the table” just so in a variety of rooms/situations.

        My robotic dyspepsia derives in part from all those cute cuddly oh so human looking robots coming out of Japan (mostly) that in fact actually do not much of anything useful (other than stand around and look cute).

        Folding laundry BTW is probably an order of magnitude more difficult than unloading a dishwasher…

        I can see how we might redesign the process of doing the laundry to better accommodate the capabilities of a robot, but I am firmly of the belief that we should strive to make robots adhere to our foibles/limitations rather than forcing us to adjust to their capabilities. (:grin)

        As to your reply to Karen above, I tend to disagree. First (and trivially) there will be robots that design and build robots (:grin). Even today much of the design & fabrication of computer chips (upon which all this stuff rests) is in fact done by (wait for it) computer programs(:grin).

        The problem as I see it is that there will always be some jobs for people, but I think that jobs for those of only average intellectual capabilities are going to mostly disappear. Yes, technology will always create new jobs, but those jobs will increasingly involve significant intellectual capabilities which sadly many of us don’t have.

        Karen raises a valid point: if in the future we can create great wealth, but only a fraction of us can have “a job”, then how do we decide to allocate that wealth to the great majority who don’t have (and never will) a job (which has been historically how most of wealth allocation has been accomplished)?

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        I love your long and thoughtful comments!

        Let’s start out with the definition of “robot”. I go back to the original, the 1920 Czech play R.U.R. by Karel Čapek. The word “robot” (introduced to English by this play) basically means “forced laborer”, as I understand it. Here’s a discussion of the origin:

        Now, the robots in that play are not what we generally think of robots today…they would be androids, perhaps, but they are organic…grown, more like clones (but without the suggestion of being a duplicate of an existing person).

        By the way, I was going to direct that play at one point, although it never actually made it to opening night. 🙂

        Perhaps I should quote the whole introduction to On the Robot Beat posts:

        “A robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship).

        The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

        On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.”

        I’m surprised that Baxter wouldn’t fit in your kitchen! Even on the optional pedestal, the “footprint” is 36″ by 32″. Since people tend to move around when they work, I would guess that’s not much than a human unloading a dishwasher would use. I was curious, so I looked up design guidelines for kitchens…I would think Baxter would fit comfortably into the “kitchen work triangle”:

        You didn’t say anything about putting the dishes away…that would be massively more difficult! 😉 Actually, it would be, especially the way people haphazardly load dishwashers now. If you washed only teaspoons in a single load, and put them all in facing the same way in the same compartment, it would make things much easier. Otherwise, we get to the object identification level: “Is this a spoon or a fork?” hat’s within the realm of current technology, certainly, but I don’t think Baxter could do it.

        Also, Baxter would be unlikely to be able to reach both your dishwasher and your into your cabinets and drawers, I think.

        Laundry is even more complex, as you can imagine…shirts can be more diverse than spoons.

        I know someone whose service dog can empty the dryer…but not fold the clothes or put them away. 😉 The dog just puts them in a basket or pile, I think. However, and even with the obvious effects of the clothes having been in a dog’s mouth, it’s better than trying to reach them from a wheelchair.

        Robots building robots is probably near future…robots designing robots is, I think, not in the near future I mentioned in my comment. They may be able to select from modular components for a task, but designing something new? I think that’s a bit away.

        I think there was a recent British projection that something like 46% of jobs could be done by robots…leaving the majority that couldn’t. If I get a chance, I’ll look for the article: I’m sure I flipped it into The Measured Circle Flipboard magazine, probably within the last week.

        As to your last point: we are back to indieployment. Rich people will, in part, allocate the wealth the way that some of it is now: by paying people for things, including art, which are produced outside of the traditional sense of employment.

        Looking at economic systems: currently, in most societies, wealth is concentrated in a fairly small percentage of the population. If robots eliminate some jobs, those people initially don’t have a source of income. They can: find another source of income (again, like writing or playing music); be supported in some other way (such a through charity); cause a redistribution of the wealth; or they might not survive. I’m not suggesting any of these as preferentially desirable or likely, just trying to list somewhat of a decision tree. My guess is that the first option has been growing and will continue to do so for at least the next five years or so.

        I also expect the second option to increase…and not just because of Bill and Melinda Gates. 😉

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