Amazon drivers take issue with AI technology monitoring their driving

Photo courtesy of Amazon

If you’ve ever received those letters in the mail from your auto insurance company regarding “accident forgiveness,” you may have patted yourself on the back about it. Auto insurance companies use this “earning” perk for policyholders after milestone anniversaries for accident-free driving.

Now imagine finding out that you’d only get this insurance perk if you agreed to have four HD cameras in your vehicle: a road-facing view, a driver-facing view and two side cameras with 270 degrees of coverage. There are also two driver alert buttons and two LED indicator buttons that can record your driving the entire time.

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The artificial intelligence (AI) system would send you audio alerts when you’re speeding, driving too close to other cars, when you forget to put on your seat belt, are engaged in distracted driving and/or fail to stop. Does it feel invasive yet? Does it matter if there is no live view or audio recording options? Would you still feel like it’s worth it?

Now let’s turn the tables. Let’s say that this recording functionality monitored your driving for your own employer instead of your auto insurance company. Would you have a different view of it then if you were driving a company vehicle as opposed to your own? Or, do you still have privacy concerns?

This is the camera system that Amazon is requiring its drivers to use: Driveri, the Netradyne camera-based video safety technology. Amazon rationalizes this software as a way to decrease the likelihood of vehicular accidents.

Investigations by ProPublica and BuzzFeed News in 2019 confirmed that Amazon drivers were involved in more than 60 crashes that led to serious injuries, including 13 fatalities.

Related vehicles involved in the accidents may have not known they were Amazon-related digital signal processing, or DSP, vehicles though. ProPublica reported that some drivers were using cars, trucks and cargo vans that did not have Amazon’s corporate logo. In one death, that of Gabrielle Kennedy, the DSP Amazon vehicle was marked as just “Penske Truck Rental.”

Meanwhile the demand for e-commerce and rapid online delivery has continued to go up, especially with consumers in social isolation. And with the higher demand for timeliness and speedy delivery comes increased pressure for Amazon delivery drivers to be able to handle the workload. Even after hiring 100K new employees in 2020, Amazon hired 75K more.

Facial recognition required, not suggested

In addition to monitoring Amazon vans for safe driving, Vice reports that Amazon delivery drivers are also required to sign a biometric consent form this week. This form would give Amazon’s AI system access to their locations, movements and biometric data (i.e., facial recognition). The recording software can even see when drivers yawn. In turn, drivers are starting to quit, accusing Amazon of micromanagement and privacy concerns.

While some technology allows drivers to turn the cameras off when the key is not in the ignition, other video-monitored Amazon vans can still operate cameras up to 20 minutes after the ignition is turned off. Regardless of which van they’re in or camera capability, in order for Amazon drivers to continue on with their jobs, they are all required to review the Amazon privacy policy. They must consent to the use of the facial recognition technology and camera-operated vehicles to continue delivery in the DSP vehicles.

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