Amazon is installing artificial intelligence-driven cameras in its delivery vehicles and the vehicles of many of its smaller delivery subcontractors. Some drivers are not happy about this panopticonic development, but Amazon insists the results are favorable.
The cameras by tech startup Netradyne face both inward and outward. In the vehicle, the cameras track such things as seat belt usage and changing of the radio. Outside the vehicle, they track such indicators as the distance between the delivery vehicle and other cars and the driver’s behavior at traffic signals.
Many drivers, either for Amazon or its subcontractors, complain that they are unfairly penalized by the cameras’ AI “Derek.” A driver in Los Angeles told Vice, “Every time I need to make a right-hand turn, it inevitably happens. A car cuts me off to move into my lane, and the camera, in this really dystopian, dark, robotic voice, shouts at me. It’s so disconcerting. It’s upsetting when I didn’t do anything.”
A broad swath of drivers whom Vice spoke to said, collectively, “Rather than encourage safe driving, Netradyne cameras regularly punish drivers for so-called events that are beyond their control or don’t constitute unsafe driving. The cameras will punish them for looking at a side mirror or fiddling with the radio, stopping ahead of a stop sign at a blind intersection, or getting cut off by another car in dense traffic.”
Amazon spokeswoman Alexandra Miller told the Washington Examiner that some of what has been reported on this is “misleading.” She said the delivery service partners “determine if they want to incentivize drivers for safe driving behavior, and as a result, yes, some drivers who exhibit unsafe behavior may see a change in DSP incentives.”
She insisted that “base pay, though, would never change” and quantified: “The average wage for our delivery service partner drivers in the U.S. is $17.50 per hour.”
Miller also sent the Washington Examiner a previous statement from Amazon, saying, “More than half of our U.S. fleet has been fitted with the technology, and we continue to see remarkable safety improvements — accidents decreased 48%, stop sign and signal violations decreased 77%, following distance decreased 50%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 75%.”
Because these are cameras, there is an accessible record for reference. There is also a process in which subcontractors can “appeal a safety event” and have it “removed from impacting the DSP scorecard,” Amazon insisted.
Still, appeals take time and effort by the subcontractors, and the “DSP scorecard” directly affects how much money they make. Drivers with low scores, their fault or not, could be in for a hard time from their supervisors due to cameras, in addition to being yelled at by a robot voice.
The Washington Examiner asked camera manufacturer Netradyne if drivers are getting dinged for events beyond their control and if that is something the cameras can correct over time, given the machine learning that usually goes along with AI. The company did not reply by press time.
Fellow private delivery service UPS is also installing cameras in many of its vehicles, though at a slower clip than Amazon and in a less invasive way, company spokesman Dan McMackin told the Washington Examiner.
McMackin insisted, “The foundation of safe driving at UPS is TRAINING, with additional technology-based tools such as Telematics being used to increase awareness of safe driving methods.”
As for cameras, he said that some “outward-facing cameras” are being installed in delivery vehicles in a pilot program, as well as “sensors inside the cab to monitor driving habits, providing an audible alert so corrective action can be taken.”
“The in-cab sensor-based device does not have video or audio capability,” McMackin added.Source: Washington Examiner