Amazon is rolling out AI-powered cameras in its delivery vehicles so it can keep closer tabs on drivers.
The four-camera system will use machine learning to detect unsafe behaviors like distracted driving and speeding, and then issue verbal warnings to drivers, the company said in an instructional video first reported by The Information.
Amazon said in the video that the cameras are meant to improve safety, an issue the company faced scrutiny over after multiple investigations revealed its focus on speed helped lead to at least a dozen fatalities (though Amazon has avoided liability because the drivers aren't employees).
But the cameras, which Amazon said will record drivers "100% of the time" during their routes, also raise privacy and bias concerns given the company's track record on both.
"We are investing in safety across our operations and recently started rolling out industry leading camera-based safety technology across our delivery fleet. This technology will provide drivers real-time alerts to help them stay safe when they are on the road," an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement.
The camera system, called Driveri, is made by Netradyne, a California-based company which builds tools to help transportation companies "reduce driving incidents and protect against false claims." (Netradyne did not respond to a request for comment).
Amazon claims in the video that Netradyne's cameras "reduce collisions by 1/3 through in-cab warnings," citing studies by First Analysis and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. (First Analysis could not be reached and a spokesperson for VTTI could not immediately determine which study the video referenced).
Driveri's four cameras — a forward-facing dashcam, two side cameras, and a driver-facing camera — use AI and machine learning to detect driving behaviors like failing to stop at stop signs, following too closely, speeding, driving distracted, hard breaking and acceleration, seatbelt compliance, and drowsiness. It also detects if the cameras are obstructed.
Driveri then uses automated verbal alerts to warn drivers when they're engaging in risky behavior.
Karolina Haraldsdottir, a senior manager for last-mile safety at Amazon who narrates the video, says in it that no one is able to monitor a "live feed" of driver footage, that video is only uploaded when Driveri is triggered intentionally by drivers or during specific "safety conditions," and that a "limited set of authorized people" can access the footage.
Haraldsdottir also explains that drivers can only turn the cameras off when the ignition is off, and that the side cameras may remain on for up to 20 minutes to record things like "package theft, driver harassment, and collisions from moving vehicles."
Amazon has a long history of extensively tracking workers' behavior and penalizing those who fail to meet strict productivity quotas, while subjecting them to dangerous working conditions, and while taking steps to deliberately conceal injury rates.
Amazon hired the notorious Pinkerton spies to track warehouse workers and labor movements at the company, Vice News recently reported. It also monitored workers' public and private social media activity, prompting backlash from lawmakers and from more than 200 employees who petitioned Amazon to be more transparent.
The company has also faced criticism over its use of facial recognition technology, which multiple studies have shown is biased against women and people with darker skin. It's not clear whether Netradyne's technology relies Amazon's Rekognition — or any other facial recognition software.