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Amazon’s New Wheels: 100,000 Electric Delivery Vans to Hit the Road in 2021

While other businesses are diving into their 2020 goals, and figuring out ways to meet them in spite of the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon has its 2021 plans in action. The Amazon Blog confirms that the online retailer has ordered 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles from manufacturer Rivian. Amazon’s upcoming electric vehicle fleet will help them meet their climate pledge of zero net carbon by 2040.

Rivian, derived from “Indian River,” began “by electrifying trucks and SUVs [that are] capable of handling every kind of terrain skillfully, and hauling all kinds of gear.” According to the manufacturer’s official website, their vehicles combine electrification with self-driving capabilities.


What does the future of Amazon delivery look like?

With the boost in hiring practices and higher-demand in online orders, even before the coronavirus scare, it appears that the self-driving option shouldn’t scare all the workers away. The company has hired as many warehouse and delivery workers (100,000) as it has vans, along with a current $2 pay raise per hour through April of this year.

While there are some jobs with Amazon that have oddly strict requirements—for example, Amazon Customer Service work-from-home jobs require no wireless connections, only Ethernet cables—drivers appear to have more flexibility. Through their Delivery Service Partners, they must be able to operate and navigate the company’s current gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR or GVW) delivery van (10,000 pounds or less), move boxes with a maximum weight of 70 pounds, complete a drug screening and work an average of 10 hours for four to five days per week. Hand-held technology helps them keep track of packages and the entire delivery process.

By now customers (Prime customers at least) have probably seen the Amazon-branded vans, which came courtesy of a partnership with Mercedes-Benz. According to Amazon’s blog, each van came equipped with a high roof for drivers to stand in, a bulkhead and customized shelving in the cargo area to prevent packages shifting around.

Safety features on the new vans will include automated emergency braking, front-wheel and all-wheel drive options, lane keep assist, pedestrian warning systems, traffic design recognition, and an automatic warning system that detects and alerts distracted driver behavior. These features match the motto of Amazon’s van drivers for following “strict safety standards on and off the road.”

Tech-savvy drivers may be especially impressed by the built-in mapping technology and package delivery information, which eliminates current drivers having to keep up with the extra handheld devices. Voice commands and Alexa will also be options to help with sorting and any other assistance in the zero-emissions vehicles. While the old vans were pretty good for storing packages in the rear area (and optional for passenger packing), the newer vans include a traditional hinged door on the driver side for optimum driver safety, and a sliding passenger door and foldable passenger seat for quick entry and exit. The rear roll-up door will come in handy for package loading as well.


Amazon vans prove the drivers are still needed

While the self-driving features on any vehicle could make delivery drivers nervous about whether their assistance will be needed at all, it doesn’t look that way for Amazon’s vans. In addition to the safety features, there’s also human-centric options such as temperature-controlled seats, heated steering wheels and armrests. All three are “powered by an intelligent occupant cabin thermal controls system designed to reduce energy consumption.”

If all goes well, consumers should be seeing at least 10,000 of the new electronic vehicles on the road in 2021. By 2030, the other 90,000 will make their appearances, too.