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For a long time, Amazon has been looking into applications for self-driving vehicles — and testing fleets of self-flying drones for making package deliveries. So it only makes sense that the Seattle-based online retailing giant would meld those vehicles for a warehouse-to-doorstep delivery system virtually untouched by human hands.
In a patent published today, Amazon inventors Hilliard Bruce Siegel and Ethan Evans describe a system that has autonomous ground vehicles transport packages to a customer’s neighborhood — perhaps even the street in front of the customer’s door — and coordinate the doorstep delivery with a drone.
Both types of robo-carriers would be in contact wirelessly with a central computer network that would manage the operation. The ground vehicle could be directed to head over to a fulfillment center, pick up shipments and plot a course for deliveries. Drones could flit back and forth to drop off packages and charge up at the vehicle.
Various diagrams show how the drones could pick up packages from a vehicle in the street, then fly over to drop off deliveries on doorsteps, designated drop zones and upper-floor balconies. Some diagrams show big delivery truck as the base of operations, while other show a smaller delivery robot like the ones that are being tested north of Seattle.
The drones could be owned or operated by an entity that’s distinct from the ground-vehicle service — for example, by the managers of the apartment building that’s being serviced. You could have different companies put in charge of deliveries in different neighborhoods. The important thing is that everything’s coordinated through a central network.
Such a combination system would solve several challenges: For example, the battery-powered drones wouldn’t have to use as much juice as they would if they were flying directly from a fulfillment center to make a delivery. There’d be less noise, and less need to fly over other people’s property.
For ground vehicles, the system not only bridges the “last mile” of a delivery route — it addresses the last 100 feet. Siegel and Evans, who are veterans in the patent business, say that’s becoming increasingly important.
“Over time, an increasing frequency and volume of deliveries of items from e-commerce and mail-order companies has resulted in an increased need for faster and more efficient delivery methods,” they write.
There’s one more twist to the application: It cites a GeekWire story about Google’s patent for using drones to pick up shipments and fly them to a mobile dropbox.
The application was filed back in 2016, and there’s no guarantee that Amazon will develop an all-autonomous delivery system like the one described. But the description does provide an indication of what Amazon has been thinking about as it builds out its own end-to-end delivery system.
For what it’s worth, Amazon has been investing what’s thought to be hundreds of millions of dollars with transportation startups such as Rivian and Aurora. Amazon plans to buy 100,000 all-electric Rivian vans for its delivery fleet. And recentlypublished patent applications indicate that both Rivian and Aurora are putting a lot of effort into making their vehicles autonomous, even under challenging conditions.
The big question is, what took so long for someone to get the patent for this idea? We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update this item with anything substantial we hear.
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GeekWire aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle is an award-winning science writer and veteran space reporter. Formerly of NBCNews.com, he is the author of “The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference.” Follow him via CosmicLog.com, on Twitter @b0yle, and on Facebook and MeWe.
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When most people think about hunger, they think of a starving child in a third-world country. Or perhaps they think of a long line of homeless people waiting outside an inner-city soup kitchen.
The truth is: hunger is a HUGE problem everywhere in the United States, but it’s not always easy to see. In a country known for its wealth and prosperity, 42 million Americans struggle to find their next meal.
The face of hunger has changed. No longer is it just the homeless man on the street reaching out for a helping hand, but every day millions of people are struggling to feed their families. No one is a stranger to the economic hardships of today.
Hunger is all around us. Hunger is not limited to a single demographic or geographic region of the country. It is not a problem only affecting the homeless or the poorest of the poor. Hunger is everywhere, and the numbers are staggering.
As the economy continues to put a strain on our wallets, people are being forced to make extremely difficult decisions. What does hunger look like, you might ask?
- It is your father-in-law who just got laid off and now struggles to pay his mortgage and put food on the table.
- It is your elderly neighbor who must choose between buying groceries and heating her home.
- It is your child’s classmate who goes to school each day without lunch and is too embarrassed to ask for help.
Adults who suffer from hunger live shorter, less healthy, and less happy lives. They are more likely to be obese, more prone to mental illness, and more susceptible to deadly diseases. Hunger is terrible for adults, but it’s so much worse for children.
Hunger and malnourishment go hand-in-hand, and kids who miss out on essential nutrients during their critical years of growth will be dramatically disadvantaged for the remainder of their lives. 1 in 6 American children go to bed hungry each night.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, hungry children have compromised immune systems and are two to four times as likely as nourished children to develop health problems—ranging from the relatively minor to potentially fatal. Childhood hunger also impairs cognitive development. Kids who don’t have enough to eat do worse academically, do worse socially, and risk becoming so impacted—even by only temporary food insecurity—that recovery becomes impossible.
Most people tend to think about hunger during the holiday season. We see a ton of food drives occur right around Thanksgiving. But what happens during the rest of the year? Food insecurity is a year-round issue affecting millions of families and individuals across the country.
The summer months are the most difficult time for our nation’s food banks. During the school year, hungry children get the majority of their daily calories from free or reduced price school lunches. When school is out of session, those calories must come from somewhere else. There are summer meal programs, but over 13 million children face a greater risk of hunger during the summer because those programs are difficult to access and underfunded.
Thankfully, the summer is also the busiest season for the moving industry, so Move For Hunger has a great opportunity to fill the shelves of our communities’ food banks. Move For Hunger works to rescue food from people’s homes that would otherwise be thrown away and get it to local food banks where it’s needed.
Want to make a difference?
Click here to Get Involved in our fight against hunger.
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If there’s one well-known distinction separating Millennials from previous generations, it’s that they don’t live to work – they work to live. Priorities have shifted, so at the end of the day, it might not be the paycheck that matters most but rather the culture and a better work-life balance that keeps them loyal to a company. As more Millennials and Gen Z enter the workforce, the offices of the past are evolving into a more relaxed, open-minded, and hands-on environment that better suits the personality of newer generations. They’re driving office design trends that are bringing the workplace fully into the 21st century.
1. THEY’RE KNOCKING DOWN THE WALLS
Millennials prefer a collaborative, social environment, so the days of cubicles are over… long over. In its place has arrived the open floor plan concept. No more walls. No more dividers. No more disconnect betw
een employees. Simply a group of desks grouped together. An open floor plan encourages communication, building strong team connections and fostering camaraderie between employees. And the best part about this from a business perspective? Frequent interactions and collaborations can lead to innovative ideas and developments that benefit the company in its entirety.
2. THEY’RE DECORATING WITH PIZAZZ
Beige walls. Beige carpet. Beige desks – a.k.a. boring, boring, and boring. Modern, comfortable, eclectic – those sound better, don’t they? Yes? Then let’s kick the drab shades to the curb and breathe life into the space where people spend more than eight hours a day. Influenced by Millennials’ desire for an appealing workspace, offices are getting a makeover from floor to ceiling. It’s time for businesses to decorate with pizazz whether they’re drawing influence from the company’s values or inspiration from employees’ personalities. When your office is a medley of vibrant and engaging hues, it increases employee productiveness, so a splash of color really can make all the difference.
3. THEY’RE REPLACING THE OLD TECH WITH THE NEW
Born into the new era of technology between 1977 and ’95, Millennials are the definition of “tech savvy,” so they’re expecting a technologically up-to-date office space. Gone are the clunky desktops and miles of wires commandeering desk space, and in its place are sleek laptops and tablets. These devices can be easily transported from one side of the office to the other (Can you do that with a PC? I think not.), and all the information an employee needs is always right at their fingertips. Using the latest technology also streamlines and automates what were once time-consuming tasks, allowing employees to be more efficient and productive!
4. THEY’RE CREATING A VARIETY OF SPACES
Variety is the spice of life, and Millennials agree – especially in the workplace. Creating a variety of work spaces inspires a more engaging environment. Consider a large conference space with modern tables and chairs for important meetings. A collaborative room with a standup table and monitors for internal discussions. A small, sunlit area with large windows and a cozy couch for an employee seeking peace and quiet. When presented with numerous rooms and areas, employees can find the space that helps them be the most productive for the task at hand.
5. THEY’RE MAKING WORK FUN
The last and certainly the most important office space trend influenced by Millennials is quite simple: make the workplace fun! Remember, Millennials place a lot of emphasis on a company’s culture – will they be expected to work around the clock, or does the company believe in a work/play balance? Whether you put a pool table in the lunch room, place a ping pong table in a spare room, or hang up a hammock in a quiet room, providing engaging activities around the office will help your employees rest and reset their busy brains. After their break is over, they’ll feel mentally refreshed and ready to tackle what the rest of the day has to offer. Who says you can’t live a little at work?
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — It’s been 21 years since the first Tahoe Summit. Since then, $2 Billion in federal, state and private funds has been collected and spent on keeping Lake Tahoe blue. “We’ve completed more than 500 improvement and restorations projects,” Senator Diane Feinstein, D-California, said. “One hundred thirty-nine are underway now.” But now…