So what’s Amazon’s ultimate aim in delivery? After talking to analysts, partners and competitors, and prying some very minimal input from Amazon itself, I suspect the company has a two-tiered vision for the future of shipping.
First, it’s not trying to replace third-party shippers. Instead, over the next few years, Amazon wants to add as much capacity to its operations as possible, and rather than replace partners like UPS and FedEx, it is spending boatloads on planes, trucks, crowdsourcing and other novel delivery services to add to its overall capacity and efficiency.
Amazon’s longer-term goal is more fantastical — and, if it succeeds, potentially transformative. It wants to escape the messy vicissitudes of roads and humans. It wants to go fully autonomous, up in the sky. The company’s drone program, which many in the tech press dismissed as a marketing gimmick when Mr. Bezos unveiled it on “60 Minutes” in 2013, is central to this future; drones could be combined with warehouses manned by robots and trucks that drive themselves to unlock a new autonomous future for Amazon.