“If one thing goes wrong, I’m going crazy,” Elizabeth told CNN Business. “It’s my job, it’s over. They’ll see it on camera.”
Amazon spokeswoman Deborah Bass told CNN Business that drivers can’t lose their jobs for a single mistake, but declined to elaborate on how Amazon recommends supplying partner companies handle feedback, training and discipline. Amazon said video footage from the cameras would only be sent to it under certain circumstances, including heavy braking, heavy acceleration and U-turns.
“Safety is Amazon’s top priority,” Amazon’s Bass said in a statement. “Whether it’s state-of-the-art telemetry and advanced last-mile van safety technology, driver safety training programs or continuous improvements in our mapping and routing technology, we’ve invested tens of millions of dollars in safety mechanisms in our network and regularly inform drivers’ best safety practices. ”
Companies that monitor commercial drivers are not new. Companies such as UPS and DHL rely on telematics systems that track driver behavior such as seat belt use, speed, acceleration and braking. UPS says it has relied on telematics for more than 20 years. Amazon goes further and embraces cameras that constantly target drivers that rely on artificial intelligence to vote for real-time feedback. Drivers will receive real-time warnings if they put a stop sign, a tailgate or are distracted.
Amazon drivers say the negative experience with the company’s existing driver monitoring system contributes to their concerns.
Drivers already use an app called Mentor that evaluates driving by tracking braking, acceleration, cornering, speeding and distraction. But drivers interviewed by CNN Business say the app could unfairly punish them for misinterpreting sensible driving. Their smartphone, falling to the floor or sliding around their car, could be interpreted as a sharp turn or a sudden stop, they say. Receiving a text message can be considered a distraction, they say, even if they don’t check their phone to read it. The results of the mentor can affect the driver’s compensation.
The app has a rating of 1.2 out of 5 in the Apple App Store and a rating of 1.3 out of 5 in the Google Play App Store. Many reviews of the app say that it causes fear, as the assessment can feel unpredictable.
“This app gave me nightmares!” Said an Apple App Store reviewer.
Bass told CNN Business that Amazon is working with vendors to continue to improve its products, but declined to comment on whether it is happy with the quality of the Mentor app and if it thinks the reviews reflect the quality of the app. Amazon also declined to share whether its new camera surveillance system has been shown to improve security.
But “the potential is huge,” said Matthew Camden, a researcher at the Virginia Institute of Transportation who studied driver surveillance systems. Camden’s research found that older driver monitoring systems reduced crashes by 38.1%. Adding AI-powered capabilities should add to the benefits he said, as real-time feedback can train drivers to improve. Companies offering artificial intelligence-driven driver monitoring systems have reported a reduction in collisions of more than 50 percent, but independent researchers have not yet studied the systems, according to Camden.
Elizabeth said there were some positive aspects, such as the safety and security of drivers. She said she had colleagues who were robbed or pointed a gun at them. (Amazon says in its video that drivers can upload footage in case someone approaches their vehicle.)
Juan Ramos, who delivers for Amazon in Garland, Texas, told CNN Business that he likes some of the new camera safety features, such as distraction tracking, speeding and next distance. Cameras can clear drivers’ problems if they are in an accident, he said. But he has heard from drivers who think the cameras will control them micro and are worried about getting into trouble or losing their jobs because of something that looks like a small violation. He said he knew drivers who were worried about the cameras in front of them out of concern.
“To be quick, I have to do some things I shouldn’t do,” said Fuentes, who cited the example of often not wearing his belt but putting it behind him. He declined to comment on the story.
“If a driver has to make a U-turn or has to make a backup or do something to maintain supplies and they get points or talk about it, I feel it’s not fair,” Ramos told CNN Business.
Still, Amazon may be on the verge of a new trend.
The automated camera market is expected to triple over the next five to seven years, according to Jason Palmer, CEO of Omnitracs, which offers a driver monitoring system. Amazon relies on a system from Netradyne that declined to comment on the story. Its competitors include Omnitracs, Lytx, Jungo and Samsara.
Amazon’s biggest competitors, UPS, FedEx and DHL, declined to say whether they considered using AI-powered driver monitoring systems. FedEx has worked with Lytx before, but declined to comment on the deal. UPS said it had briefly tested the camera, but did not decide whether to accept it.