Amazon is interested in self-driving vehicles, too

An Amazon team is exploring the possibilities of autonomous delivery.

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Apple and Alphabet aren't the only tech heavyweights branching out into self-driving vehicle technology. Amazon wants in on the action, too. Wall Street Journal sources hear that Amazon formed a small (roughly 12 people) team about a year ago to explore the possibilities of autonomous vehicles. This doesn't guarantee you'll see Amazon-made driverless vans roaming the streets, to be clear. Rather, the group is an "in-house think tank" looking at ways to take advantage of self-driving tech for the company's online shopping business. With that said, smarter delivery vehicles are a real possibility.

It's no secret that Amazon is taking increasing control of its delivery chain, whether it's buying its own jets or managing ocean freight -- anything to lower costs and ship your goods a little bit faster. Autonomous vehicles are a logical extension of that. If it reduced the need for human drivers, delivery trucks could operate almost non-stop. This would sadly eliminate jobs, but it could also mean getting that big Amazon Prime order in one day versus two.

And to some extent, research into autonomous tech might be necessary for Amazon's drone delivery plans -- that's still the company's big focus, according to the tipsters. While there aren't specific details, Amazon may "coordinate" drones with ground-based self-driving vehicles (say, vans that double as launchpads) to help with deliveries. The driverless team may have a lot of work to do, but there could be a day where your Amazon purchases are handled almost exclusively by machines.