Drone deliveries and self-driving cars are both right around the corner. Amazon showed off functioning, autonomous Prime Air drones last year, and Teslas are already smart enough to prevent crashes. Today, Google was awarded a patent combining the two.
The Autonomous Delivery Platform patent, first spotted by Quartz, would put Amazon Locker-like containers on the back of self-driving trucks, letting users type in a code or scan an NFC chip to retrieve their packages.
Google also presents the idea that customers could pay for their items right there, which could turn self-driving trucks into rolling vending machines.
The patent focuses on last-mile deliveries, as opposed to shipping stuff cross-country in self-driving cars. That would fit in with the existing hub-and-spoke model. The trucks would also work better in dense urban areas where drones probably won’t be allowed to fly, let alone drop boxes from the sky.
With Google already working on drone deliveries and leading the movement toward self-driving cars, combining self-driving cars and a delivery service may be a bit of a no-brainer. But Google isn’t the only one working on autonomous delivery on wheels.
Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friss have a smaller vision for getting things to you. Their plan puts packages into individual little carts, which would drive on the sidewalk at a much slower pace.
Uber is also working on self-driving cars and has a growing presence in delivery, even working with Google to get purchases to people. But Google’s head-start in autonomous vehicles may let it build out its own services soon.