Amazon’s not out to replace UPS and other shippers — it’s goal is more ‘fantastical’

The big Louisville-area employer wants to add as much capacity to its operations as possible, says New York Times technology columnist Farad Manjoo. “And rather than replace partners like UPS and FedEx,” he says in a new column, “it’s spending boatloads on planes, trucks, crowdsourcing and other novel delivery services to add to its overall capacity and efficiency.” Manjoo continues:

Prime Air logoAmazon’s longer-term goal is more fantastical — and, if it succeeds, potentially transformative. It wants to escape the messy vicissitudes of roads and humans. It wants to go fully autonomous, up in the sky. The company’s drone program, which many in the tech press dismissed as a marketing gimmick when CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled it on “60 Minutes” in 2013, is central to this future.

How fantastical is that future? Amazon has already filed patents for self-driving trucks as mobile shipping warehouses. Prestocked with items Amazon has determined a given neighborhood might need, the trucks could roam around cities. When an order comes in, a drone might fly from the truck to a customer’s house, delivering the item in minutes.

Amazon’s how-it-would-work video about Prime Air is funny, and instructive:

The Seattle-based retailer employs 6,000 workers at distribution centers in Jeffersonville and Shephardsville. UPS, where Amazon is a major customer, employs 22,000 workers at Louisville International Airport, making it the city’s single-biggest private employer.

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