Look on the sidewalk! It’s a toy, it’s a ground drone, no, it’s Scout, Amazon’s autonomous rolling delivery robot! While the Amazon drone project still hasn’t taken off, remote control delivery robot Scout is already making deliveries in Snohomish County, Washington, not far from Seattle.
About the Amazon Scout Delivery Robot
Amazon says that Scout is about the size of a small cooler, although that’s not all that useful of a comparison, as coolers – even small ones – vary greatly in size. However, you can get a sense of Scout’s size from this picture, and also the video we have posted below.
Amazon Scout is “About the Size of a Small Cooler”
Scout rolls along at a human walking pace, which is good, seeing as how for a while Scout, even though being autonomous, will be shadowed by a human Amazonian.
With its 6 wheels, Scout rolls along and navigates sidewalks with aplomb, presumably negotiating curbs and curbcuts, although the video (again, below) doesn’t show that.
Scout is just one in a field of a half-dozen or so delivery bots in or entering the delivery space right now. Fedex SameDay Bot, Starship, Kiwi, Robomart, and TeleRetail Robot are all up and running, whether in beta or in field trials, as well.
According to the comprehensive information offered by TerkRecoms in a video covering the subject Starship and Kiwi are focused primarily on delivering food and personal care products, while the TeleRetail delivery bot is intended to help brick and mortar stores compete with the likes of Amazon, and Robomart is literally a portable grab-and-go convenience store (albeit a tiny one) on wheels.
By contrast, Scout and FedEx’s FedEx SameDay Bot have been developed to address the so-called ‘last mile’ problem: getting deliveries from the delivery truck or depot to the ultimate destination.
The FedEx bot is being developed in a partnership between FedEx and Segway inventor Dean Kamen.
FedEx SameDay Delivery Bot
To our knowledge, at least as of the time of the writing of this article, Amazon’s Scout is the only one that is currently in actual use (in the field tests in Snohomish County).
Problems we Foresee with Scout
While the concept of an autonomous delivery robot bringing your latest Amazon Prime order to you may be cool, and certainly high tech, and arguably solves some problems for Amazon, such as not being subject to driving fatigue, or, you know, members of a union, there are a number of logistical problems that nobody seems to be talking about – at least openly. And they seem pretty obvious to us.
- What if the nobody is home? The robot can’t leave your Amazon delivery on your doorstep like your friendly (or even incompetent) USPS or UPS driver can and generally will.
- They are subject to hijacking – with your packages inside them. Of course we are sure that they have onboard security and anti-theft technology, but a sneak attack from behind and a strong crowbar are likely to have them giving it up like a (insert your favorite but probably unPC simile here).
- Back to ‘what if nobody is home’, does this mean that if you are expecting an important Amazon delivery you actually have to make sure that you are home? The convenience:inconvenience equation seems to be weighted almost entirely, if not entirely, in Amazon’s favor here.
- Scout – at the stated size of “a small cooler” – can’t deliver anything larger than, well, an even smaller cooler. Sure there are lots of small packages that Amazon delivers. However an independent, unscientific survey of the Amazon packages delivered in our own neighborhood suggests that the majority of packages from Amazon wouldn’t even fit inside Scout, which leads us, sort of, to our last point…
- How can it possibly scale, and without raising prices to the end consumer? Even assuming that Scout was able to accommodate a wider assortment of package sizes, how many of these things will Amazon need to have in its Scout fleet to really make an appreciable dent in whatever delivery logistics Scout may (or may not) be designed to address? And at what cost?
At the end of the day, we’re not entirely sure that Amazon Scout, like it’s FedEx SameDay Bot and other ‘last mile’ robotic delivery bretheren, isn’t more of a big boy’s toy for Bezos, et al, being developed because it’s ‘wicked super cool’, with perhaps a bit of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ thrown in, and not because it’s at all practical.
Here is the video of Scout in action. Have you seen or even been serviced by one of these things? What is your own experience with – and opinion of – these sorts of delivery robots?
Amazon Scout in Action