Amazon, Audi, and DHL plan to test the viability of delivering packages to trunks of customers' cars in Munich next month.
Audi drivers participating in the pilot test will be able to have Amazon Prime packages delivered to their cars rather than to home or office addresses.
"We are working to offer Prime members a delivery location that is always available and convenient: The trunk of their car," Michael Pasch, director of Amazon Prime in Europe, said in a statement. "This innovation makes shopping at Amazon even easier and more flexible. It gives customers another way to receive their orders."
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Bradley Stertz, corporate communications manager at Audi USA, described the project as a small pilot program. "We want to try out some different technology and security issues," he said, characterizing the test as part of the automaker's broader interest in connecting to other aspects of customers' lives.
DHL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The test involves a small number of specially equipped Audi models. It relies on Audi Connect, an entertainment and information system with built-in cellular data service.
Volvo demonstrated a similar roaming delivery scheme last year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. According to the company, 60% of people experienced delivery problems with online shopping in 2013.
A 2009 study published in Green Logistics suggested deliveries are not quite so unsatisfactory. It found that 35% of people experienced inconvenience in deliveries. It cited research from 2007 that found first-time delivery failure rates ranging from 2% to 30%, depending on carriers' policies when there's no one home to receive a package. Failed deliveries represent a cost that logistics firms would like to reduce or eliminate.
In an email, Satish Jindel, president of ShipMatrix, said DHL's failure rate for first deliveries globally (for its express service) is about 2.5%, as it is for competing firms. The data, he said, is based on hundreds of millions of actual parcels shipped globally by customers of DHL, FedEx, and UPS who use ShipMatrix applications.
Amazon already offers customers the ability to have packages delivered to any nearby Amazon Locker instead of a home or office address. While Amazon Lockers aren't scarce – there are eight locations in San Francisco, for example – they aren't necessarily nearby for everyone at all times. Being able to designate one's car as a drop-off point offers a potentially more convenient option.
In order for a DHL driver to deliver an Amazon package to a suitably equipped and publicly accessible Audi, the participating customer must first provide Amazon with the expected location of the car during the anticipated delivery window. When the driver arrives at the vehicle, he or she is provided with one-time access to the trunk electronically. When the package is delivered and the trunk is closed, the trunk relocks automatically and the customer receives an email notification of the delivery.
The program, Amazon said, also enables the return of products, which can be left in the trunk for pickup. It may even inspire some interesting scenes in Mafia movies.
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