Amazon is actively testing a fleet of autonomous delivery robots. While the test is currently limited to one neighborhood, Amazon appears to believe this vehicle, called Scout, is the future of home deliveries. Which should fill UPS employees with dread.
From Prime Air to Amazon Scout
Way back in 2013, Amazon unveiled Amazon Prime Air. In a segment on 60 Minutes, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos promised that within just a few years a fleet of drones would be delivering packages by air. Now, it’s 2019, and Amazon Prime Air is nowhere to be seen.
Amazon has a dedicated robotics wing working on other options. Until now, Amazon’s robot workers have been confined to moving products around Amazon’s warehouses. But now the company has unveiled Scout, which is heading out onto the streets.
Amazon Sends Scout on a Mission
As detailed on the Amazon Blog, Scout is a small, autonomous delivery vehicle. It’s about the size of a small cooler, is powered by electric batteries, and travels at walking pace. And it is, of course, designed to deliver Amazon packages to people’s doors.
Amazon is initially testing Scout in one neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington. A fleet of six Scouts will be delivering Amazon packages Monday to Friday during daylight hours. They will follow designated delivery routes accompanied by an Amazon employee.
Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said:
“We are delighted to welcome Amazon Scout into our community. Similar to Amazon, we are always looking for new ways to better deliver service to our residents. From the latest Amazon innovation to cutting edge technology, Snohomish County is a great place for entrepreneurial creativity.”
Amazon Scout Is a Work in Progress
Amazon assures us that Scout is safe, saying, “the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.” However, there are some other rather obvious issues surrounding the deployment of Scout.
What happens when Scout reaches someone’s door? And how will Scout know it’s giving the parcel to the right person? Once employees stop escorting Scout, how will Amazon ensure its safe passage? Because these things will get stolen and/or vandalized.
Amazon clearly has more work to do before Scout is ready to be deployed on any street other than a nice neighborhood in Washington. Still, we’re approaching the point at which robots are going to do all of the jobs, so it would pay to acquire these skills.