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Amazon's Latest Delivery Scheme Involves Handing Over Your Car Keys

By David Jones
Apr 25, 2018 11:26 AM PT
amazon key service now includes in-car deliveries for prime members

Amazon on Tuesday added a new option to its Amazon Key service for Prime members: in-car delivery, which allows drivers to place packages inside a locked trunk or elsewhere in a car that is parked in a publicly accessible area.

The Amazon Key In-Car delivery service is available at no extra charge to millions of Amazon Prime members, including drivers of 2015 or later GMC, Chevrolet, Buick or Cadillac vehicles who use the OnStar service, and customers with 2015 or later Volvo who have a Volvo On Call account. Amazon plans to add additional makes and car models in the future.

"In-Car delivery is part of Volvo's expanding ecosystem of connected car functions," said Volvo Car USA spokesperson Jim Nichols.

"We believe that using in-car delivery for high-value items that you don't want sitting on a front stoop or in the rain is a strong benefit for our customers," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Customers need to download the Amazon Key app, link their Amazon shopping account with their On-Star or On Call account, and select in-car delivery during the checkout process.

The app updates customers when the package is on its way, when the package has been delivered, and when the door is unlocked and relocked. It also gives customers a chance to rate the service.

Cars must be in a publicly accessible area, not underground or in multilevel garages, because the drivers use GPS technology to find them. The cars must be within two blocks of a designated delivery address during a four-hour scheduled window.

Amazon will not use the service for items weighing more than 50 pounds. The deliveries are backed by the Amazon Happiness Guarantee.

Access Denied

The new Amazon service could serve as a field test of connected car security.

"It's wise that an existing network to start off with is being used," said Greg Young, vice president of cybersecurity at Trend Micro.

"OnStar already has been in wide use, and the unlock feature already has been availalble," he told the E-Commerce Times.

There was some concern about the hack-proof concept for GM OnStar RemoteLink in 2015, when white hat researcher Samy Kamkar demonstrated the ability to remotely unlock and start cars using the system.

Whenever third parties become involved with such a system, complexity is added to the equation and vulnerability becomes a greater concern, Trend Micro's Young pointed out.

If the Amazon service has the proper encryption, then a hacker cannot just use a "sniff and replay" attack to access the system, noted Brian Martin, vice president of vulnerability intelligence at Risk Based Security.

However, this type of technology is notoriously bad at implementing strong encryption, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Race to Delivery

The announcement of the new service comes at a time when Amazon is locked into a fierce battle with Walmart and other retail rivals for home delivery services. The competition has heated since Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year.

Amazon has used special perks like same-day delivery as a benefit to drive Prime membership, which CEO Jeff Bezos earlier this month claimed had topped 100 million customers.

In-car delivery likely will appeal to some customers, acknowledged Josh Lowitz, a partner at Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

However, it's doubtful that Prime membership will increase because of it, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Walmart on Tuesday announced an agreement with restaurant delivery firm DoorDash to expand its grocery delivery service in Atlanta. Walmart plans to expand its grocery delivery to more than 40 percent of U.S. households by the end of this year. The company already has assembled a team of more than 18,000 personal shoppers to implement the service.


David Jones has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2015. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, e-commerce, open source, gaming, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. He has written for numerous media outlets, including Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times. Email David.


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