The retail giant looks to outsmart "porch pirates."

By Jeff John Roberts
October 11, 2017
Martin Divisek—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A recent study suggests that nearly eight out of 10 Americans shop online. This is a boon for companies like Amazon that specialize in home delivery, but also for more unsavory enterprises—including the crooks who specialize in swiping people’s packages.

These so-called “porch pirates” are a growing nuisance for both consumers and businesses, which is why a proposed solution by Amazon is a big deal.

As CNBC reports, the solution involves Amazon working with a maker of “smart” license plates to allow delivery people to have temporary access to customers’ car trunks.

The upshot is that Amazon customers using the service wouldn’t have to worry about their package sitting unattended for porch pirates to pilfer, or about their merchandise getting damaged by rain or snow. Instead, the package would simply be waiting for them in their car.

The report does not provide specific details of how exactly the system will work, but it likely involves a smart sensor granting access to verified delivery agents like UPS and FedEx for a short window of time. Customers would presumably receive a notification on their Amazon app when the delivery is complete.

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Unnamed sources also told CNBC that Amazon is working on a similar system involving smart doorbells. If this is the case, it’s less obvious how this would work in practice: While many customers might be okay with granting access to their car trunk, fewer would be comfortable opening their front door of their home while they were away.

If Amazon pulls this off, consumers wouldn’t be the only ones who benefit. Businesses are also harmed by package theft, which creates additional costs and can create a poor shopping experience that deters customers from ordering again. Likewise, a system of car trunk drop-offs would also improve efficiency by reducing the number of times truck drivers attempt a delivery.

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