The race to develop self-driving technology reportedly has another entrant: Amazon.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources briefed on the matter, reports that the Seattle e-commerce giant quietly established a team focused on developing driverless vehicles.
The team was reportedly organized more than a year ago and includes about a dozen employees.
Most autonomous driving developers — from automakers to tech giants to startups — believe that the technology could make driving more efficient and much safer.
Self-driving systems, however, could have profound implications for Amazon. The e-retailer's growing network of warehouses — which is already filled with robots — could be supplied by driverless trucks and equipped with automatic forklifts.
Driverless cars, meanwhile, could efficiently deliver packages to customers' doors — the expensive "last mile" that plagues e-retailers and parcel carriers alike.
Amazon's progress on the project is largely unclear, but the Journal noted that the company secured a patent early this year for a system that coordinates autonomous vehicles on roads.
The project is one of many efforts undertaken by Amazon to control its shipping operations and curb delivery costs.