160209_EM_GoogleDelivery
Eric Risberg—AP

Google Just Got a Patent for a Driverless Package Delivery System

Updated: Feb 09, 2016 8:00 PM UTC

As Amazon prepares its fleet of delivery drones, Google might also be throwing its hat into the ring: The search giant received a patent Tuesday that suggests that self-driving delivery vehicles may be coming down the pipeline.

The patent describes an "autonomous delivery platform" for delivery trucks. The trucks would contain a series of lockers that could be unlocked with a PIN code sent to the person waiting for the delivery. Customers might also be able to open lockers with their credit cards or near field communication readers, Quartz reports. After a package is dropped off, the truck would be programmed to continue to its next destination or return the depot to load additional packages.

While the patent doesn't divulge details about how the technology would work, it does say that delivery trucks may include features such as video cameras and laser range finders to see traffic, detailed maps to navigate roads, and a communication subsystem to contract a controller.

If they ever hit the road, Google's self-driving delivery trucks could compete against Amazon's "Prime Air" for the quickest deliveries to customers' doors. In a video released last year, Amazon showed how its drones could rise and descend vertically up to 400 feet, as well as reach heights of up to 15 miles in the air, depending on the model. Amazon's efforts, however, are stalled by FAA regulations, which prohibit commercial drones operating beyond line of sight.

The patent isn't Google's first foray into self-driving technology: It's been working on a self-driving car program that's currently testing in three U.S. cities. The tech giant has also promised that it will launch its own drone delivery service, called Project Wing, in 2017.