Amazon’s driverless tech team focuses not on building it, but on how to use it

Amazon has a team dedicated to driverless technology, the Wall Street Journal reports, but their focus isn’t on building self-driving cars or trucks; instead, the Amazon squad acts as a kind of braintrust looking at how to best employ autonomous vehicle technology to serve the ecommerce giant’s business goals.

The Amazon team was set up just over a year ago, and it’s mandate falls within Amazon’s larger goal of owning more of its own delivery and shipping chain logistics. It concerns itself with how Amazon could use driverless trucks, warehouse vehicles like forklifts, drones (which Amazon is often eager to show off) and other tech including self-driving cars to improve speed of delivery and get you your tchotchkes faster.

Autonomous tech could help Amazon in any number of ways – the company has already done a lot with factory and supply center warehouse robotics, and self-driving trucks could help with driver supply issues, and with limits placed on human drivers due to fatigue. Naturally, then, the report says Amazon’s team is very interested in autonomous trucking. Last mile delivery handled by either air- or ground-based drones are obviously an attractive option for Amazon’s business, and there’s likely a lot more opportunity to be had in tech like machine platooning, and even piggybacking small package delivery on future autonomous ride hailing networks.

Even technology like Hyperloop, when paired with autonomous cars and transportation pods, is likely on the radar of Amazon’s big-brained self-driving network. The ecommerce giant showed a proficiency with the new realities of data network technology that let it build Amazon Web Services into one of the largest cloud companies in the world, and Hyperloop could be the same kind of high-bandwidth network for real-world goods.

Amazon might eventually start building its own autonomous vehicle tech, but for now it seems more interested in understanding how best to leverage that of those companies who specialize in the area to further improve its logistics. Perhaps they can talk to Kitty Hawk about adding a cargo compartment.