said Tuesday that it is building its own network of delivery couriers through a program called Amazon Flex – the latest attempt by the e-commerce giant to bring something close to instant gratification to the process of online shopping.

With Amazon Flex, the company says, drivers can make from $18 to $25 an hour ferrying packages to customers that were ordered as part of its one-hour Prime Now delivery service. As with on-demand car services such as Uber and Lyft, drivers will be independent contractors who select their own work hours.

The new approach is part of the retailer’s ongoing obsession with getting items to customers faster, and could help reduce Amazon’s dependency on major shipping carriers such as UPS and FedEx. And with Uber also experimenting with using its network for deliveries, it could also put these two big names in the tech sector in direct competition.

“They are more and more starting to confirm for themselves that for them to be such a big online retailer, having some capabilities of their own distribution is a core competency, and not an outsourced one,” Satish Jindel, president of logistics advisory firm SJ Consulting Group, said of Amazon.

But Flex also could ensnare Amazon in many of the wage and policy debates that Uber has faced as it has expanded rapidly across the country. There has been a flurry of legal battles over whether such on-demand drivers should be considered employees instead of independent contractors, and labor groups have criticized companies such as Uber, Instacart and others with similar business models for not giving these contractors benefits and other perks.

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