On April 10, Amazon took another big step toward its goal of fully automating its warehouse operations. The Silicon Valley giant acquired Canvas Technology, a Boulder, Colorado-based autonomous robotics company. The startup’s most impressive product is its self-directed fulfillment center carts. These carts can seamlessly navigate busy warehouse environments while picking up and transporting specific items.
The firm’s warehouse vehicles use a custom 3D imaging program to avoid colliding with human workers, equipment, and inventory. Amazon’s interest in the company makes sense as one of its robots hospitalized dozens of fulfillment workers last year by puncturing a can of bear mace.
In 2012, the retailer bought a warehouse robotics concern called Kiva Systems for $775 million. Kiva was renamed Amazon Robotics and has added 100,000 robots to the firm’s worldwide logistics division.
What was Canvas Technology?
Founded in 2015, Canvas Technology offered its clients end-to-end autonomous delivery within the fulfillment space. The startup made a splash in the Colorado tech sector by unveiling functioning self-driving robots two years after opening.
The company’s robots impressed industry watchers due to their robust computer vision functionality and ability to share mapping information. The Canvas Autonomous Carts continuously scan their environments for obstacles instead of strictly following preprogrammed courses. Two years into its existence, the firm provided fulfillment solutions for large corporations such as Cochlear Americas.
Canvas’ offerings impressed investors as well; in 2017 the company received $15 million in Series A funding. Notably, the bulk of the cash injection came from Playground Global, a venture capital firm headed by principal Android operating system creator Andy Rubin.
Amazon didn’t disclose the terms of its acquisition of Canvas.
No People, No Problems
As of last year, Amazon employed 600,000 workers worldwide. However, given the corporation’s recent moves, its workforce is likely to see a massive reduction in the near future.
To be fair, the organization has not been secretive about its interest in driving technological unemployment. In 2017, the e-retailer’s implementation of automated warehouse systems allowed it to shed 24,000 human workers.
The following year, it initiated a buyout program that offered long-term employees $5,000 severance packages. Moreover, the corporation’s utilization of various autonomous fulfillment solutions let it decrease its holiday hiring for the first time in its history.
Amazon’s careful phasing out of human labor has been extraordinarily lucrative. In Q4 2018, the e-commerce platform reported a record $3 billion in earnings. Indeed, while its methods are cutting-edge, reducing overhead costs to boost profitability is an age-old business strategy.
Furthermore, the corporation’s pivot away from humanity has helped it reform its image. For the last few years, the media has published horror stories about the way it treats its warehouse workers. However, robots don’t need pay raises, bathroom breaks, vacation time, and a modicum of privacy. Accordingly, there is no risk of autonomous machines complaining to the press when they don’t get those things.
Additionally, the more robots the firm utilizes, the more money it can spend on admittedly awesome projects like giving the entire world Internet access.
The truth is, Amazon functions better when people are taken out of the equation.