back to article Amazon deploys AI cameras inside delivery vans, misspells 'surveillance' as 'safety' in reason why

Amazon has installed AI cameras inside its delivery vans to nitpick its drivers for, we're told, safety reasons. The e-commerce behemoth has been slammed in the past for using all sorts of technology to keep close tabs on its workers sorting and handling goods at its warehouses. Now, it wants to keep a constant eye on those …

  1. terrythetech
    Facepalm

    failing to break?

    "Some of these include failing to break at a stop sign" - is a bit harsh. Failing to stop maybe, but what exactly is it they are supposed to break?

    1. FILE_ID.DIZ
      Trollface

      Re: failing to break?

      Maybe Amazon drivers are supposed to breakdance at each of those signs. I've seen more than a few examples of chinese fire drill at stop signs.

      In all seriousness... this should be reported through the Corrections link at the bottom of the article. They respond super fast to them.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: failing to break?

      Yeah, OK, easy mistake -- it's fixed. Don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot anything like this, ta.

      C.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: failing to break?

        In what way is it an easy mistake?

        I know you try to publish fast, but do you really have no proofreaders/editors

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When you buy from them...

    ... you condone their behaviour.

    1. FILE_ID.DIZ
      Thumb Up

      Re: When you buy from them...

      Exactly. Couldn't upvote you more than once, sadly.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What They Said, and What They Mean

    “That is why at Amazon we are committed to keeping drivers and the communities in which they deliver safe. We’re always searching out for innovative ways to keep drivers safe. That is why we have partnered with Netradyne to help us make improvements to the driver’s experience.”

    Translated :

    “That is why at Amazon we are committed to keeping drivers worried about not working hard enough and the communities in which they work in, coerced to deliver more packages. We’re always searching out for innovative ways to screw over our workers. That is why we have partnered with Netradyne to help us make improvements to the driver’s experience which may (most likely), or may not (least likely), be detrimental to their health. .”

    1. Danny 14

      Re: What They Said, and What They Mean

      I used to deliver for target express for some extra cash. I wouldnt have minded this sort of camera wired to HQ. This is beacuse HQ had no fucking clue how the roads in south Scotland worked. At least with this footage they could see that i was driving the speed limit and driving carefully. As long as the drivers had access to the footage to sue the company if they try funny business.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overloading

    Many of the Amazon "delivery" delivers in the city I live in use normal cars heavily overloaded. A professional driver will use a safe van of some form. So many Amazon deliveries in this city are carried out from overloaded small family cars. Parcels piled up in the back seat, to the roof of the car, blocking the view, and causing some bizarre potential safety issues. Amazon drive to chase for cheap, quick delivery is leaving too many corners cut.

    Adding cameras to these drivers would backfire on Amazon as it would be recording rule breaking that they themselves are causing.

    This kind of dubious amateur delivery is driving me away from using Amazon. There is a scary level of ignoring the laws of the road.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Overloading

      Full disclosure time - the OH delivers for another company, and uses her own car, as do many of the other drivers at her depot, so the following comments are based on what I've learned as a result...

      BYOC(ar) is common across many delivery companies, and is one of the reasons why you can now order something today and have it in your hands tomorrow without it costing a fortune in delivery charges, or why you can wait an extra couple of days and have it delivered for nothing - if companies required their drivers to only use vans, then it'd either result in there being fewer drivers (pushing up delivery times) or drivers having to be provided with company vans (pushing up delivery costs), because many of the drivers doing this work day in day out are doing it as a way to earn a bit of money doing a job that's sufficiently flexible to fit around things like childcare, and wouldn't be doing it if they had to provide their own van.

      Maybe the rules are different in your part of the world, but here in the UK it's not illegal to fill up the interior of a car so much that you can't see out the rear window provided you have a clear view of both wing mirrors, though yes, if you pile it high with smaller items that could shift around under braking then there is the potential for things to go wrong - this isn't in itself a problem with using cars for delivery, it's just something the driver needs to plan when loading the car to keep things as well secured as possible.

      Overloading, as far as weight limits go, is unlikely given the makeup of a typical car-load of parcels, especially bearing in mind that it'll usually only be the driver in the car with them all, rather than potentially 4-6 other fully grown adults. Plus, at the company my OH works for, the genuinely heavy or bulky items are assigned to one of the van drivers for delivery, with the car drivers being used to cope with the far greater numbers of smaller/lighter parcels. And the drivers have the choice to reject any parcel they decide is too big/heavy for them to delivery safely.

      So I wouldn't say these "amateur" drivers (and note that they're amateurs in the same sense as anyone driving a fully liveried van for delivering - with few exceptions, those vans can be driven by anyone with a normal car licence, so those drivers are unlikely to have had any additional training compared with the people using their own cars) are in general ignoring the laws, and right now it's the way most deliveries are going. Even the big names are increasingly using drivers who bring their own vans to help deal with the amount of stuff that's now being delivered every day, so if you'd prefer not to order stuff from a company that relies on such drivers to get said stuff to you, then you're going to end up with a rather short list of suppliers.

      As for the whole "in cab camera" and wider "driver behaviour monitoring" issue - prior to doing deliveries, the OH drove buses, and cameras/black boxes were a standard fit on all the buses in this part of the UK, along with "mystery shopper" passengers who'd observe driver performance first hand. Doesn't necessarily make such levels of employee scrutiny OK, it's just worth remembering that Amazon aren't the first, and won't be the last, company to do stuff like this - we do however seem to like giving them more of a hard time over stuff like this, because, well, Amazon.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Overloading

        I hope your OH has told her insurance company how the car is being used, or she could find herself in for a big bill in the case of even a minor bump. That sort of use goes way beyond the usual coverage of a private car policy.

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Overloading

          Yes, that's all been in place since she started - the need to have appropriate cover is one of the things her company make clear to all new drivers, so whilst it's still then the responsibility of the drivers to arrange this (just as it's their responsibility to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy etc), it's not something any of them can say they weren't aware of.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Overloading

        "Amazon aren't the first, and won't be the last, company to do stuff like this"

        They appear to be the first to feed the driver facing camera into an "AI" system which then produces audible voice "warnings" when they yawn or do anything else which the "AI" thinks may be unsafe.

        I wonder if they bothered to record any compliments into the "AI" system so it can compliment you on your driving? I bet they never thought of that. All stick and no carrot would be my bet.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Overloading

        "Overloading, as far as weight limits go, is unlikely given the makeup of a typical car-load of parcels"

        It's a criminal offence to drive with obstructed rear view mirrors

        It's also a criminal offence to have unsecured loads inside the vehicle if operating commercially. Packages sliding around the cabin are dangerous - and that includes on the rear seat

    2. Wade Burchette
      Joke

      Re: Overloading

      Amazon has to cut corners! They need the money. You wouldn't want their new CEO to work less than 100 million per year, do you? That would be horrible. So, you see, after paying their new CEO a living wage while still paying their old CEO a living wage, Amazon doesn't have enough money left to pay for proper delivery vehicles.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Overloading

      "So many Amazon deliveries in this city are carried out from overloaded small family cars. "

      if you see this, call the police.

      1: It's illegal to overload

      2: Most of them don't have the correct insurance

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Put those cameras where they are actually needed...

    in the payroll department to make sure they don't steal tips from their employees again.

    1. deive

      Re: Put those cameras where they are actually needed...

      and in the board room, to make sure they are paying some tax.

  6. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Excellent!

    Does this mean when the Amazon driver marks my delivery "Unable to access front door" that there will be proof they didn't even drive to my house?

    (No, I'm not kidding. I get that all the time. They claim the front door is not accessible when they never even pull in the driveway or attempt delivery.)

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Excellent!

      That's not new.

      20 years ago I ordered something, had it delivered to work.

      "Noone in" was the excuse from the delivery company when I called to ask where it was. I then pointed out that I had deliberately used my work address, since there was 24/7 security presence - there wasn't a point in the day, or night, when there was noone there.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Excellent!

      There should already be proof from the GPS log on their hand-held device. The same thing that allows you to track the driver's progress on a map when they are about 8 stops away.

    3. cd

      Re: Excellent!

      You've hit on something that Amazon, being a newby transportation company , hasn't considered. Which is that the recordings can be evidence.

      Some trucking companies in the US have learned that the recordings can be subpoenaed. This has resulted in the removal of cameras by some companies. Of course there are many stupid companies out there still using them.

      Amazon is the personification of the wealthy idiot alpha-hotel, if they were a person.

  7. This is my handle

    Once the numbers are in...

    ... you'll find that in addition to an accentuated reliance on the likes of Amazon for goods you might normally just pop out to the local big box for, the CORONA virus has inexplicably ushered in a dramatic rise in the incidence of car-jacking, or "grand-burglary auto", the taking of a vehicle using the threat of those deadly weapons which are so ubiquitous in the US. I have to think that jacking an Amazon delivery would be a bonus for one of these thugs.

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    Speeding

    If they are so against speeding maybe they should have more realistic schedules for driver deliveries, with even slightly busy roads drivers either lag behind delivery schedule or try & make up time by speeding in some areas.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Speeding

      I posted something similar above. These camera systems will help drivers prove they followed all the rules all day. So when head office tag something on your appraisal you can pull the footage for proof.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Speeding

        "So when head office tag something on your appraisal you can pull the footage for proof."

        Yup, and even in uncivilised "Right to work" USA states, the Department of Labor will happily investigate employers attempting to compel employees to do illegal things

        (Hint: If retaliatory action of any kind happens against an employee who flags this stuff, the settlements can be very $LARGE)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So now, the drivers will either get a reprimand for not delivering all the packages during their round, or a reprimand for not following all safey rules.

    But their managers are not going to get a reprimand for giving them to deliver too many packages, will they?

    I really can see how this policy will directly translate into huge savings in stopping raises for drivers, since there's no way they can reach objectives. I'm glad that kind of crap is illegal here in France.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "But their managers are not going to get a reprimand for giving them to deliver too many packages, will they?"

      They will - contact your labour inspectors and inform them of unsafe working conditions

  10. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Live streaming is a red herring...

    If the camera can record, without a prior alert, in response to unpredictable circumstances, you don't know when you're being filmed, so it has the same impact as being filmed constantly.

    Don't know if this is planned for directly-employed drivers only, but the whole "independent contractor" fiction would look even more threadbare if supposedly self-employed drivers were required to fit one of these.

  11. hoola Silver badge

    Collateral....

    This is also going to collect a huge amount of additional information that can be used to develop driverless delivery vehicles. I don't like and don't trust Amazon, their business practice and what they get away with.

    Nothing these big tech companies do is for anyone's benefit other than themselves. I do not see how this can be anything other than ways to extract more work our of the drones and build up a stash of data to input into their autonomous deliver projects.

    Unfortunately regulation has been so lacking and left for so long that it is going to be next to impossible to sort them out.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Collateral....

      What's wrong with automation?

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Collateral....

        Appeasement: nothing to worry about organic meatbag.

  12. DrXym Silver badge

    Yeah sure

    More likely this "feature" serves as a convenient way to sack drivers for any reason they feel like - "oh you were 3mph over the speed limit on occasions X, Y & Z so we're going to terminate your contract", as opposed to "you weren't working all the hours of the day to meet some bullshit delivery metric so we're going to terminate your contract".

  13. Chris the bean counter

    Capturing the data to train self driving cars

    Maybe?

  14. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    In defence of Amazon

    I work for a global company, and I can say more than 50% of corporate policy is driven by a fear of being sued. And it's not a hypothetical fear. Once a company has more than X amount of revenue / market cap / whatever measure, the civil lawsuits trying to skim off some of that money are endless. If it's not the customers, it's the employees, otherwise it's the neighbors, the regulators, etc. The line goes around the block.

    Amazon are no angels, but at least video evidence can be used in court to prove they are not being negligent. In fact if they had the means and ability to install cameras and didn't do it, even *that* could be used against them in court.

    1. cd

      Re: In defence of Amazon

      As I wrote in a comment above, it can also be used against Amazon. When they face one of those cases, and their drivers --being underpaid and high-turnover-- are pretty terrible, the cameras may go away.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Considering the fraudulent behaviour of drivers....

    I'm consistently getting stuff signed off as "handed to resident" when CCTV shows them throwing it over the gate and running

    Those delivery notes are declartions for legal purposes and relying on fraudelent declarations from its drivers vs actual video evdence has been blowing Amazon's credibilty in court

    This is WHY several UK courier companies now insist on having photographs of the items in question in the nands of the customer. Don't forget EU distance selling laws say a package is delivered when the CUSTOMER says it's delivered, not anyone else.

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