Amazon has a twisted, clever new idea that you really may not love

Tech companies want to make the world a better place. But look what Amazon wants to do to your neighborhood now.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

So many tentacles.

Image: Catalin Cimpanu

Hasn't Amazon done enough?

It's brought your shopping to your door, so that you don't have to move. It's put a camera on your doorbell, so that you can become a passive police officer.

Why, it's even happy to see its last CEO being sent up into space, just so that he can coldly look down on his subjects from an even greater height.

Oh, but it's never enough in the tech world, is it?

I'm delighted, therefore, to offer you Amazon's latest vision for your daily life. It's a patent application entitled "Directing Secondary Delivery Vehicles Using Primary Delivery Vehicles."

Your imagination is already whirring, I can tell. But may I offer you the first sentence of the abstract?: "Primary vehicles having cameras or other sensors generate and transmit instructions for causing secondary vehicles, such as personal delivery devices, to travel on selected courses and speeds."

In essence, a typical Amazon truck will roll down your street. It'll stop at a convenient location. Then, its rear door will open, and out will roll lots of little robot cars carrying packages. Each will have its own destination. While you stare out of your window and marvel at the synchronized delivery ballet that Amazon is performing for your pleasure.

Once the deliveries have all been performed, the little robot cars will return to the mothership and be on their way.

I do find this adorable. Although, because I have imperfect circuitry, I foresee logistical issues. You're jumping in your car in order to visit the office. One of these darn little robots is crawling across the street at 4.6 miles per hour. Won't you be just slightly tempted to nudge it out of your way?

And how will your kids, your dog, or your pet alligator react?


Oh, so wise. And yet...

Screenshot by ZDNet

Then there's the issue with road surfaces. Some are less even than others. What if the little delivery bot has an accident? Who will save it? Who will save your package from getting inadvertently squashed in the process?

Dare I also mention who'll be driving the big truck? Will it be a human? If so, will they feel their lot has improved because they don't have to rush from door to door, desperate to make sure they deliver enough packages per minute?

What will that human be doing while the robots are doing all the work? Will they be allowed to read on their Kindles? Or will they have to carefully watch their little bots in case of mishaps?

Ultimately, I fear, this swarming of the neighborhood may be a fine idea in theory -- it's only a patent application, after all -- but a painful incursion into our lives.

Then again, what if the big truck was equipped with Alexa announcing to everyone the contents of the street's deliveries, via a loudspeaker?

"Mr. James Mantelpiece, number 82, four beer glasses, lederhosen size XXL and a large pot of industrial glue."

"Mrs. Jennifer Mantelpiece, number 82, a book entitled 'Leave Your Husband In Two Easy Steps.'"

Now that really would be worth listening to.

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