We are all guilty of stalking our Amazon packages while we are waiting for a delivery, and often times we get the message that our package has been transferred to USPS or some other carrier for delivery. This is part of a tactic that Amazon has been using for several years now, in an effort to reduce their shipping costs while keeping delivery lightning fast.
Recently, that has meant partnering with other, local delivery services that are able to manage the handling of the package to your front door. Amazon uses a number of delivery services, including USPS, to accomplish this. Now, however, Amazon is investing in a new “partner” of sorts to help them manage that last leg of their deliveries.
It’s no surprise that Amazon has just revealed that they are going to try to tackle that part of the journey with…what else? A robot! Robots are having a moment, and if you don’t believe me just reference this year’s Super Bowl ads. They were robot-heavy, to say the least. It’s clear that big retailers believe that robot-based systems are the future. Warehouses are already using robots to automate their picking and packing processes, businesses are experimenting with other ways that robots can help including bringing groceries into homes and delivering take-out food. Amazon is now introducing us to Scout, the autonomous delivery robot.
Scout isn’t some design revolution; in fact the robots look a lot like what we’ve already seen from existing robots. The robot will be equipped with sensors that allow it to be autonomous, and it will be small enough that it can easily navigate sidewalks. Scout will have an electric battery, and will roll around on six wheels.
Scout will soon be hustling the streets of Washington, in Snohomish County. The delivery bot will only be allowed out during weekdays when it is daylight, to help delivery packages to Amazon Prime customers that ordered something with one of the Prime shipment options: same-day, one-day, or two-day. During this targeted pilot testing of Scout, the robot will have chaperones. These human Amazon employees will help make sure that the Scout bots are effectively and efficiently navigating the sometimes crowded sidewalks or rural and urban living. There are lots of obstacles, from people to pets to trash, that could get in the way if Scout isn’t working properly. Amazon says it is only deploying six Scout units during its beta testing.
While this is definitely a peak into the future, there are a lot of questions surrounding how autonomous robot delivery services will actually work. At least, in the form they are now. Once we have robots that walk and talk, these things won’t matter. But for now, here are things I worry about:
- Are these things safe? What if they catch on fire while they are out?
- How will these things navigate across streets?
- What if the delivery home has a gate or a security code? How will the robot open that?
- What if a human interferes with one of the bots while it is cruising down the sidewalk?
Remember to leave your thoughts on the up and coming Amazon Scout down below!