Announcements and leaks about new Amazon products and programs have been dropping almost daily as CEO Jeff Bezos is presumably pulling out all the stops to ensure that he remains the world's richest man.
Yesterday, it was a report about Amazon's "top secret" project to build its next blockbuster consumer product: A robotic home assistant that conjured up comparisons to Rosie from "the Jetsons".
Today, the company announced a partnership with GM and Volvo to use the "Internet of Things" technology available in their cars to allow Amazon delivery people to stow packages in customers' trunks when they're not around.
The service, which will be available in all Volvo models produced after 2012 and all GM domestic models produced after 2015, is essentially an expansion of Amazon's "Amazon Key" service, which the company unveiled back in October. Like that service, which was touted as a way to cut down on package theft during the busy holiday delivery season, car delivery will be available only to Amazon Prime members. The service is being rolled out in 37 US cities, starting today, according to the Verge.
As Bloomberg explains, GM and Volvo are "logical partners" for Amazon.
GM has millions of cars that are wirelessly connected. With Volvo, the collaboration with Amazon is an expansion of a service that has been available in Sweden and Switzerland since 2015 through the Swedish carmaker’s Volvo On Call app. “I think what we’re doing in the U.S. with Amazon will be even more seamless and the adoption will be stronger,” Atif Rafiq, chief digital officer at Volvo Cars, said in a phone interview. "For Volvo owners this is another way to take advantage of how they can use the car."
The in-car delivery scheme, available to Amazon Prime members, is an attempt by Amazon to overcome the hesitation that many feel about opening their home remotely for couriers. It’s integrated with the company’s Amazon’s Key service, launched last year to enable customers to automatically open doors for delivery people.
The company has been beta-testing the service in California and Washington for the past six months.
Here's the Verge with more:
Amazon says it plans to add other automobile brands over time. Packages that weigh over 50 pounds, are larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size, require a signature, are valued over $1,300, or come from a third-party seller also are not eligible for in-car delivery.
Amazon signed a two-year contract with GM and Volvo, a source with knowledge of the deal told The Verge, and all three companies have agreed to use these two years as a trial period. Neither the automakers nor Amazon hope to make additional money with the service, but instead saw it as an added convenience they can market to their customers, the source added.
To access the new delivery service, you need to add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of the vehicle, so Amazon’s couriers will be able to locate it. The car will need to be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, so either home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations, just as long as it’s not at some random address across town.
The Verge got a demonstration of the service direct from Amazon last week.
Last week, The Verge got a demonstration of the new service from Amazon. After purchasing an item and selecting in-car delivery, Amazon sends a series of notifications to let you know that the package is on its way. At any point, you can choose to change delivery locations or "block access" to the car in the Key app, if for some reason you need to run a quick errand or your car won’t be immediately accessible to the delivery person. Amazon will then default to your backup delivery location if access to the vehicle is blocked.
To find your car, Amazon’s couriers will have access to its GPS location and license plate number, as well as an image of the car. An Amazon delivery employee named Christine demonstrated to The Verge how she would use her own device to verify she had found the car (a red Chevy Equinox), scan the package, and then request the vehicle to be unlocked from Chevy’s connected car services. Amazon says it never has access to the customer’s connected car login details and that all communications between the company and the connected car systems are encrypted.
Of course, now that Jeff Bezos' e-commerce behemoth has already invaded the lobby of your building, your living room and foyer, your pantry and refrigerator, accessing your car seems like the next logical step.
Still, whether Americans will be comfortable allowing delivery people to access their homes and cars when they're not around is far from assured. According to a survey by InsuranceQuotes.com, 60% of Americans say they wouldn't be comfortable handing over their house keys to Amazon like the company asked them do this past holiday season.
The news had little impact on Amazon shares.