Google could be plotting to ferry around more than just people with its driverless vehicles, according to a new patent awarded to the company.
The patent, for an “autonomous delivery platform,” describes using self-driving trucks to deliver packages to specific destinations. Inside the truck, individual lockers will each contain one package (or perhaps multiple ones if they’re meant for the same recipient) and they can only be unlocked by entering a password on a keypad-like interface. The documents also mentions that the lockers could be equipped with payment processing technology so that a recipient can only open it after paying via credit card or via near-field communication technology.
Though the patent doesn’t describe in too much detail the self-driving car technology itself, Google is well-known for its efforts in that area. The company has been working on self-driving cars since 2009, and plans to get them on the road by 2020.
Although there’s no guarantee that Google is planning to actually roll out a fleet of delivery trucks, this patent dovetails the two announced projects together quite nicely. Google wasn’t immediately available for comment on its plans for the patent.
Amazon will be hoping that it can beat any Google-backed delivery effort to the punch. The company has released myriad promotional videos and interviews teasing its drone delivery service, which it’s calling Amazon Prime Air. In November, Jeremy Clarkson, the former Top Gear host and soon-to-be Amazon video star, told us how we’ll soon be able to order small items to be delivered by drones in about 30 minutes. The company hasn’t given a time-frame on when its drone service would be ready to use, but it has said that whenever the US Federal Aviation Administration figures out how to incorporate commercial drones into the national airspace, the company will be ready to set up its service.