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Amazon Unveils Crowdsourced Delivery Solution in Seattle

Amazon Flex delivery

Amazon is turning to the sharing economy to offer ultra-fast delivery to Prime Now members.

Three months after rumors started circulating that the online giant was considering a solution that would crowdsource and pay ordinary people to drop off packages, Amazon Flex has launched in Seattle.

According to its website, the service is recruiting licensed drivers (who are at least 21 years old and own a car and an Android smartphone) to handle the one- and two-hour deliveries promised to members of Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime service on select items in 13 cities.

“Be your own boss: deliver when you want, as much as you want,” the site states, noting that the company will pay drivers between $18 and $25 per hour. “You can choose any available two, four and eight hour blocks of time to work the same day or set availability for up to 12 hours per day for the future.”

Besides Seattle, the company says the service will soon be rolled out to New York, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Portland, and it may offer opportunities to deliver via bike or on foot in the future.

Along with Prime Now orders, the website says the service could soon apply to other types of Amazon packages as well.

Crowdsourced delivery is nothing new: Macy’s recently expanded its partnership with Deliv to offer same-day delivery in 17 markets across the U.S. (up from the eight it debuted the service in last fall), while ride-calling app Uber is reportedly gearing up to pilot a similar service for New York City retailers.

But Amazon’s move comes as many on-demand services are under fire for their definitions of the term “independent contractors,” which, according to The Wall Street Journal, is what the Flex drivers will be classified as.

Uber, for instance, is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit over whether its drivers should be treated as employees. If the Uber loses the case, it could lose to higher costs for the company, including drivers’ healthcare benefits, overtime pay and gas.