BY LAURA SKY BROWN | CarAndDriver.Com
If drivers don’t agree to be monitored by cameras watching their vehicle speed, driving habits, perhaps even degree of tiredness, they could lose their jobs.
The delivery giant Amazon has rolled out a “biometric consent form” that it will require drivers to sign if they want to keep their jobs.
– According to the language in the form, reproduced by the Vice website today, drivers will be monitored by onboard cameras that collect and store images of the driver and track the vehicle’s location, plus “speed, acceleration, braking, turns, and following distance.”
– Some 75,000 people are employed delivering packages for Amazon, many of whom actually work for contractors, not the company itself.
UPDATE 3/23/21, 8:00 p.m.: This story has been updated with a comment from an Amazon spokesperson.
Amazon.com will ask its delivery drivers to agree to be monitored by onboard cameras as a condition of employment, Thomson Reuters and other news agencies reported this afternoon. The powerful online marketplace had announced last month that it would put Netradyne-made AI cameras into all of its Amazon-logo delivery vans, saying the reason is to make the delivery process safer out on the road.
The consent form states that delivery vehicles may have on board “telematics devices that collect GPS and navigation-related information, cameras with video and photograph capabilities, and sensors . . . the vehicles are video-monitored by cameras that are both internal and external and that operate while the ignition is on and for up to 20 minutes after the ignition is turned off.” It also says that the cameras can “collect, store, and use biometric information” from photographs taken of the driver while in the van and may keep the images for up to 30 days after they are taken.
The website GeekWire published an unlisted Amazon training video in which a company official explains the system, called Driveri, and points out where the cameras are in an Amazon vehicle and how they work. In it, she emphasizes that there is no audio or live-view capability so “no one can drop in and watch or listen to you make deliveries from another location.” She also said that, when the ignition is in the off position, pressing and holding the driver alert button on the camera for five seconds will turn the driver-facing camera off “so you can have privacy while taking a break.” It comes back on automatically when the vehicle is restarted, she said.
Amazon has been criticized over safety in the past. The company has been accused of prioritizing fast delivery over safe practices, including in a report by the watchdog group ProPublica in late 2019. That report criticized the company for inadequately training many drivers, not giving drivers longer rest breaks, and not limiting how many packages could be delivered on each route.
Earlier this month, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D–Mass.) was one of four U.S. senators who wrote to Amazon questioning its decision to fit AI surveillance equipment in delivery vehicles. In addition to privacy concerns, the senators questioned whether “this surveillance could, in practice, create significant pressure on drivers to speed up on their routes, which can lead to driver fatigue and decreased safety.”
To date, the senator’s office says no response has been received to its letter.
Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass told Car and Driver that safety is the company’s only reason for choosing to monitor drivers: “Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe. We piloted the technology from April to October 2020 on over two million miles of delivery routes, and the results produced remarkable driver and community safety improvements—accidents decreased 48 percent, stop sign violations decreased 20 percent, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60 percent, and distracted driving decreased 45 percent. Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”