Amazon has been known for being at the forefront of autonomous delivery research and trials. Now the company has launched cooler-sized robots to work delivering packages to customers in a neighbourhood outside Seattle.
Sean Scott, the vice president heading the project introduced “Scout”- electric-powered, wheeled delivery vehicles created by Amazon that guide themselves along sidewalks at a walking pace.
Elaborating on the working method of this delivery system, Scott said in an online post, “We developed Amazon Scout at our research and development lab in Seattle, ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.” Scott added, “Customers in Snohomish County order just as they normally would and their Amazon packages will be delivered either by one of our trusted partner carriers or by Amazon Scout.”
He described Scout being “small cooler sized,” adding that six of these ‘Scouts’ were being used to deliver packages to Amazon customers in a neighbourhood in a county near Seattle.
According to Amazon Scout delivery robots will automatically manoeuvring to destinations only during daylight hours Mondays through Fridays, but accompanied by Amazon employees initially. Results of the Scout experiment will determine whether the system is expanded.
The last leg of a delivery, also known as the last mile, is an expensive part of the shipping process comprising up to a third of the total cost of delivering goods. That’s why retailers and online companies like Amazon are exploring ways to make it more efficient.
Amazon has developed an extensive logistics network as it works to efficiently deliver goods to customers while controlling costs. The Seattle-based online retailer and others have been working on ways to improve getting orders the “last mile” from warehouses or fulfilment centres to doorsteps.
A while ago Amazon’s Prime Air service that would rely on drones to deliver packages through the air had generated much buzz. Like Amazon several other companies are turning to bots for efficient last mile delivery services. Recently, Pepsi introduced a set of self-driving vendors at a California university and Starship Technologies launched a trial at Virginia’s George Mason University which involved six-wheeled robots delivering customer’s food across the campus.
Chinese retail giant JD.com uses delivery robots, as do a number of start-ups in the United States and Europe. Another startup, KiwiBot, handles deliveries to US university students.
Whether or not Amazon scales up use of Scout in the near future would be interesting to see. After all, it’s been teasing drone deliveries for years. Amazon has robots doing a range of tasks, like moving pallets in its warehouses, for example.
Scout’s more than a subtle resemblance to Starship’s robots cannot be missed. Once all the challenges like curious neighbourhood dogs or a rare case of vandalism are worked out, Scout could be great at accomplishing deliveries in areas like college campuses or large offices soon.