An Amazon driver uses a smartphone app to open the trunk on a Chevrolet Bolt EV.

More than 100 million people, half of them in the U.S., now subscribe to online retail giant Amazon Prime. The $99-a-year service not only offers free delivery on most packages to a customer’s home but is now adding a new twist: customers can have packages delivered to the trunk of their vehicles.

The In-Car Delivery program will be available, starting today, to millions of owners of General Motors and Volvo vehicles in 37 U.S. cities. To use the service, a customer will simply choose “in-car delivery” among the various options Amazon offers.

“At Amazon, we are always working to make our customers’ lives easier and starting today….Prime members now have another way to ensure their packages are safe and secure—all for no additional cost,” said Peter Larsen, Vice President of Delivery Technology, Amazon.

(Click Here to find out about the services offered by GM’s new in-car Marketplace.)

The launch of the In-Car Delivery program comes just months after the Seattle-based retailer launched a program allowing homeowners to provide a digital key to let a delivery driver drop a package inside their home. The new in-car service could provide an alternative to a Prime customer who feels uncomfortable with the idea of giving strangers access to the home. But there are other advantages, according to Atif Rifiq, Volvo Cars’ chief digital officer.

  • An Amazon customer can select in-car delivery. They also can opt out of the service.

    It provides additional security, especially when shipping valuable goods, such as jewelry;

  • It lets an Amazon customer maintain the surprise when, say, they order a gift;
  • The In-Car Delivery program helps protect a shipment from rain or snow; and
  • The new service allows a delivery to arrive where a customer might need it, whether at home, work or even while on the road.

Another advantage is that customers don’t have to invest $220 for the digital lock Amazon requires for its in-home delivery service.

The In-Car Delivery program works with connected-car services already built into many recent-vintage Volvo and General Motors vehicles. That includes Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac or GMC products starting with the 2015 model-year and whose owners have an active account with the automaker’s OnStar telematics system, as well as 2015 or newer Volvos with the automaker’s On Call service. Both systems already have the ability to remotely lock and unlock a vehicle.

“Partnering with Amazon to leverage our embedded in-vehicle connectivity gives Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners the option to conveniently receive deliveries inside their vehicle parked at home, work or near other locations in their Amazon address book,” said Alan Batey, President, General Motors North America.

(“Hey, Mercedes!” Click Here to see how the German automaker is letting you have a conversation with your car.)

The Amazon In-Car Delivery service works with 2015 model-year and later GM and Volvo models with active telematics subscriptions.

To use the service, a customer simply selects “In-Car Delivery” and then, when the package is ready for drop-off, Amazon is able to link to the vehicle’s GPS system to locate it. A driver will also have the license plate number and a photo of the vehicle.

The delivery driver will only have access to a vehicle’s trunk using a proprietary smartphone app that can only be used when there is a parcel scheduled for drop-off. And to further enhance security, “The person delivering the package cannot go to their next delivery until they can confirm the vehicle has been locked,” said Volvo CIO Rafiq, in an interview Tuesday.

All communications with the vehicle will be encrypted, and a customer can opt out of the service at any time. They can also change plans since “life happens,” said Rafiq. If the vehicle is not where it was expected, Amazon will try several times or ask the customer if there is an alternate drop-off point.

Amazon is launching its in-car program with just two automakers, but with similar telematics technologies used by most major manufacturers today, it would appear to be simple to expand the In-Car Delivery program to other brands.

Automakers have been looking for ways to enhance the functionality of their vehicles, particularly as they add more connected-car capabilities. A number of recent models have added the ability to call up Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant from inside the vehicle. Alexa – and the similar Google Home system – can be used to check up on some vehicles remotely. With the new, second-generation Nissan Leaf EV, for example, that allows an owner to check battery charge or start up the climate control.

Ford recently paired with Dominoes and Starbucks to allow a motorist to place an order ahead-of-time and have it waiting when they pull into a drive-through. GM’s new Marketplace service will allow a motorist to not only order food or beverages but reserve a hotel room or an airline ticket.

Volvo already launched pilot in-car delivery programs in Sweden and Switzerland, and Rafiq said it could add more partners than Amazon in the U.S. “We’re definitely open for business….making our core product smarter and more meaningful and more relevant to (owners’) lives.”

(Toyota Nuro concept explores services passengers might like in self-driving vehicles. Click Here for more.)


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