- Amazon’s AI cameras penalize drivers for using side mirrors and being cut off, Motherboard reports.
- Penalties like these hurt workers’ and DSPs’ performance scores and their chances to get more money.
- Drivers also told Motherboard it’s really difficult to appeal erroneous infractions.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Amazon drivers are reportedly being punished for some driving habits that are considered safe and others that are beyond their control.
Several drivers told Motherboard the AI-powered cameras in Amazon’s delivery vans unfairly punish them for things like looking at side mirrors, adjusting the radio, and even getting cut off in traffic by someone else.
“It’s upsetting, when I didn’t do anything,” a Los Angeles delivery driver told Motherboard. “Every time I need to make a right-hand turn, it inevitably happens. A car cuts me off to move into my lane, and the camera, in this really dystopian dark, robotic voice, shouts at me.”
Whenever the Netradyne cameras pick up on possible unsafe driving “events,” these instances factor into workers’ performance scores and can, in turn, hurt their chances of getting bonuses, extra pay, and prizes. They can also affect the income of the Amazon delivery service partner (DSP) itself.
These events help decide whether Amazon drivers are given ratings of “poor,” “fair,” “good,” or “fantastic.” DSPs can get bonuses to put towards repairs, damages, and other things only if their drivers’ combined weekly scores land in “fantastic” territory.
“Amazon uses these cameras allegedly to make sure they have a safer driving workforce, but they’re actually using them not to pay delivery companies,” said one owner of a Washington DSP to Motherboard.
“One of the safety improvements we’ve made this year is rolling out industry-leading telematics and camera-based safety technology across our delivery fleet,” Amazon said in a statement to Insider. “This technology provides drivers real-time alerts to help them stay safe when they are on the road.”
The company added that it has seen the following changes since installing the cameras in more than half of its US fleet: accidents decreased 48%, stop sign and signal violations decreased 77%, following distance decreased 50%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 75%.
The Washington DSP owner told Motherboard he wasn’t trained on using the cameras. Amazon told Insider each delivery company receives training about the cameras and is required to let their workers know how “events” affect the DSP’s scores.
Some Amazon drivers have resorted to covering up their vans’ cameras with stickers to avoid getting unnecessary infractions, Motherboard reports.
“If we brought up problems with the cameras, managers would brush it under the table, they’re only worried about getting the packages out,” a Kentucky delivery driver told Motherboard. “So we cover them up. They don’t tell us to, but it’s kind of like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”
Other workers wear sunglasses so the cameras won’t interpret eye movement as distracted driving.
“The Netradyne cameras that Amazon installed in our vans have been nothing but a nightmare,” a former Amazon driver in Alabama told Motherboard. “I personally did not feel any more safe with a camera watching my every move.”
Several drivers also told Motherboard it is difficult to appeal wrongly flagged “events” with Amazon, and that their attempts to do so are often dismissed.
Amazon told Insider appeals are manually reviewed and that erroneous “events” don’t impact DSPs or drivers.
Amazon had said in February that it would install the cameras in its delivery vans to improve safety. The move has raised concerns about privacy and surveillance. The following month, an Amazon driver quit over the new camera installation, telling the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “It was both a privacy violation, and a breach of trust.” The system, called Driveri, includes a front-facing camera, two side-facing ones, and another that faces the driver.
Netradyne did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If you’re an Amazon delivery driver or warehouse worker with a story to share, you can get in touch with this reporter at [email protected].