Published on: April 1, 2016by Kevin Coupe
SEATTLE, APRIL 1, 2016 -- Amazon this morning plans to announce what arguably could be called its most audacious effort to extend its tentacles into the shipping business, building on established intentions to find ways to compete with establishing delivery mechanisms through drones, trucking, air freight and ocean shipping.
While an official launch date has not yet been set, Amazon insiders tell MNB that Jeff Bezos plans to unveil his new AmazonTruckBot initiative, which he will say is designed to bring together many of the disparate innovations in which the e-commerce pioneer has invested.
Essentially, Amazon has designed a self-driving truck that it believes has more sophisticated technology than the self-driving cars developed by rival Google, and it will populate each truck in the fleet with a robot equipped with artificial intelligence. "While we still believe that drones will have a role in the Amazon universe," Bezos will say, according to a copy of prepared remarks, "the TruckBot initiative will allow us to venture into places that they cannot go. And, the robots will allow us to avoid all the issues that come with actual human drivers. There will be no meal breaks, no sick time, no stopping to use the bathroom. It will be all efficiency, all the time. And because they're robots, we don't have to worry about those silly uniforms that FedEx, UPS and the Post Office make their people wear."
And, Bezos will add, "When the robots leave the vehicle in urban areas to make deliveries, the self-driving trucks will be able to circle the block - no worrying about parking tickets. We figure that this alone will save us a million dollars a year in New York City alone."
The top of the AmazonTruck Bots will serve as landing/takeoff pads for Amazon drones, sources tell MNB, allowing the company to effectively and efficiently extend its delivery reach.
"Between you and me, this isn't just a way to compete with FedEx and UPS," one Amazon insider told MNB. "When they see this down in Bentonville, their heads are gonna explode, which will make the entire investment worthwhile."
Plans for the AmazonTruck Bot initiative also include a newspaper delivery feature, which will use futuristic propulsion technology to actually get newspapers onto front porches and to front doors of homes still getting the paper; while this may be an option with a short life span because of the inevitable demise of the newspaper business, Bezos reportedly feels that it will help justify his investment in the Washington Post. "Besides," he is said to have told a board meeting, "we developed this propulsion technology in my rocket ship business, and we just have to shrink it down for newspapers. I love synergies."
In addition, Bezos will say today that Amazon has been working with Microsoft on the artificial intelligence part of the project. According to the prepared remarks, while most of the world saw the attitudinal corruption of "Tay," - an A.I. "bot" that was designed to go on Twitter and engage with users in casual conversation, using content-neutral algorithms to evolve its language and sensibility skills, only to be lured by negative social media influences into casual racism, sexism and an easy use of vulgarities - as a problem, Amazon saw it as a solution to a problem.
"We've known all along that if we were going to send the AmazonTruckBots into urban areas they were going to have to be programmed differently than when sent into more pastoral American settings," Bezos will say. "When we saw how easily Tay could respond to a hostile environment, we realized that the problem has been solved. Not only will each robot on an AmazonTruckBot have installed a vocal amplifier that can spew loud and appropriate epithets on city streets, but each one also will be equipped with a middle finger. Just in case."
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