January 7, 2020

Amazon to add Alexa digital assistant to its parcel delivery vans

Drivers to use AI-powered conversation bots to operate certain functions of Rivian electric vans through voice commands.

By DC Velocity Staff

Delivery drivers for amazon.com Inc. may rely on the company's "Alexa" conversational assistant to gather information about their routes and parcels in the latest design of delivery vans being built for the e-commerce giant by electric car startup Rivian.

Amazon has contracted Plymouth, Michigan-based Rivian to build a whopping 100,000 electric-powered parcel-delivery vans for delivery between 2021 and 2030. Amazon is also an investor in the firm, which landed an enormous $1.3 billion funding round in December.

In an announcement today, Rivian said it will build Amazon's Alexa digital assistant directly into all of its the new vehicles, allowing drivers to use the artificial intelligence (AI) device without having to resort to their apps or smartphones.

Rivian plans to launch a $69,000 R1T pickup truck and $72,500 R1S sport utility vehicle (SUV) outside the U.S. starting in 2021, in addition to the delivery van. All three platforms are expected to offer 400-mile driving range per battery charge.

By programming Alexa into those vehicles' onboard computers, Rivian will allow drivers to verbally control vehicle features such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), windows, and opening or closing the front-mounted cargo trunk, known as a  "frunk." Rivian's connected car system will also allow owners to access their vehicle's onboard cameras remotely, using screen-based devices like Echo Show and Fire TV.

In addition, users will also be able to use standard Alexa features such as playing music, getting directions, placing calls, controlling smart home devices, and thousands of the other Alexa applications known as "skills."

The move would be the latest integration between AI-driven conversational assistants and logistics operations, following similar moves by XPO Logistics Inc., Infor, Ehrhardt + Partner Group, and HighJump Software Inc.

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