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Written by: Myles Shin

The majority of Americans use Amazon daily, despite extensive reports of employee mistreatment. But with its implementation of pervasive AI technology among employees, has Amazon finally crossed a line?

Amazon has been equipping their delivery vans with cameras that use artificial intelligence (AI) to encourage their delivery drivers to drive more safely. The company claims this new policy will improve safety within their delivery network, such as making sure that the drivers stop at stop signs, yield to pedestrians, and avoid using their phones while driving. With many new advancements in AI implementation, this directive is unsurprisingly controversial since some believe it may infringe on a driver’s privacy. 

With Amazon’s business continuing to grow at a rapid pace, the company has started to take the “last-mile delivery” into their own hands. In the past, Amazon relied exclusively on UPS and FedEx to deliver the packages from the local facilities to consumers’ mailboxes, known in the industry as the “last-mile deliveries.” However, over the last few years, Amazon has rolled out their own AmazonPrime branded delivery trucks in order to increase their profit margins. So with more and more of their own contracted drivers on the road, Amazon wants to make this last-mile delivery process as efficient as possible.

These AI-driven cameras are Amazon’s way to ensure that the drivers are following Amazon’s protocols. Drivers have reported that if they fail to comply with Amazon’s safety protocols while on the job, they are subject to fines, and even being fired. While the cameras only record video, they do not record audio and cannot live stream the video to Amazon. However, if the driver does any sort of dangerous maneuver, the camera will automatically upload footage to Amazon’s cloud. 

The cameras that Amazon is using is Netradyne’s Driveri. The Driveri has 4 different camera lenses housed within the body: one looking through the driver’s front windshield, one focused on the driver, and the other two focused on the driver and passenger windows. These cameras use AI in order to detect whether or not the driver is driving in an unsafe manner – the Driveri will even issue a warning if the driver yawns. Some safety infractions detected by the Driveri will cause it to issue an audio warning to the driver such as “Drive Slower.”

Many Amazon workers are reportedly uncomfortable with the Driveri watching over their every move. Several drivers have reported that the cameras add more stress to their already demanding jobs because they watch their every move, waiting for them to make a mistake. However, Amazon has paid no heed to their concerns; drivers either have to comply and use the Driveri or Amazon fires them. Amazon’s strategy establishes a potential disturbing precedent; it leaves the door open for other delivery companies to also implement a similar camera system for their delivery vehicles. In fact, UPS has already conducted testing on using cameras over the last few years. With the continual advancement of technology, privacy (or rather lack thereof) has become a major issue. With companies always trying to maximize revenue, automation is playing a more important role in nearly every industry. Amazon specifically has been rapidly automating many parts of its business; automation yields faster production and fewer human-induced errors. However, this trend also means that issues of privacy are becoming increasingly pressing. Thus, it is important to use automated machinery to assist human employees to work more efficiently while also not infringing on their rights as humans.