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Amazon designs electric vehicles from driver perspective

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Amazon’s upcoming fleet of electric delivery vans will be easy and safe to drive, as well as sustainable.

In a new corporate blog post, Meg Coyle, video content manager at Amazon, describes the driver-centric design strategy Amazon uses for 100,000 electric delivery vans it has ordered from sustainable vehicle manufacturer Rivian. This $440 million investment, part of Amazon’s commitment to the Climate Pledge, represents what the e-tailer says is the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles. Vans are slated to start delivering packages to customers in 2021.  

In addition to having zero emissions, the vehicles are designed to include a suite of advanced safety technology and industry-leading features, including automated emergency braking, front wheel and all-wheel drive options, lane keep assist, pedestrian warning system, traffic sign recognition, an automatic warning system that detects distracted driver behavior, and adaptive seatbelts and airbags that adjust to the size and weight of the driver.

A digital instrument cluster and central display screen will be integrated with Amazon's logistics management and routing. The built-in mapping technology, along with package delivery information, is designed to eliminate the need for extra handheld devices. Drivers will also be able to ask the Amazon Alexa artificial intelligence (AI)-equipped voice assistant for help, or use voice commands in the cargo bay when sorting packages.

The design includes durable, resistant materials meant to make it lighter and nimbler than traditional delivery vans. This, in turn, is intended to make the vehicles quieter and easier to navigate, especially in a tight, urban environment. Additionally, the vehicle cabin is optimized for quick package access, with a traditional hinged door on the driver side for optimum driver safety, and a sliding passenger door and foldable passenger seat for quick entry and exit. A rear roll-up door will support more efficient package loading.

Other ergonomic and functional design features include temperature-controlled seats, as well as heated steering wheels and armrests powered by an intelligent occupant cabin thermal controls system designed to reduce energy consumption.

Amazon plans to have 10,000 of the new electric vehicles on the road as early as 2022 and all 100,000 vehicles on the road by 2030.

"We wanted to really work backwards from how the driver uses the vehicle," said Ross Rachey, director of Amazon's global fleet. "From the moment they step into the vehicle, to when they're driving, when they park and look for a package, and how they exit the vehicle. Everything's been customized for how they use that vehicle.”

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