Amazon is making a big deal about its latest service – robot package delivery by a small electric vehicle named the Amazon Scout. The wagon-style EV is strikingly similar to one which has been delivering mail in Switzerland since 2016.
Amazon reports Scout is being received with enthusiasm in cities where it is being tested, including in Everett, close to company headquarters in Seattle.
It’s also being tested in Irvine, California, home of several automotive design studios which also are developing robots; Atlanta, Georgia; and Franklin, Tennessee.
Scout is a small rechargable autonomous vehicle on wheels, designed to carry small packages short distances.
Robots deliver mail in Europe
A similar self-driving delivery robot, by a company called Starship Technologies, has been delivering mail and other packages for the Swiss postal service in several cities since 2016.
A similar postal delivery service by robot was tested in Germany, where the company is based, also in 2016.
Here’s what I wrote about the autonomous Swiss robot delivery wagon in 2016 – and a short video.
“These are courteous robots, sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians, and stopping when they get close enough to bump into one.
The special delivery self-driving robots are at work in a couple of Swiss cities, including Bern, the Swiss capital, testing delivery of special mailings, including packages that require flexible and rapid local delivery.
If the robots behave, their role could be expanded in the future for same-day and same-hour delivery of food or medicine, according to Switzerland’s Federal Roads Office.”
See also – Robots Deliver Luggage at DFW
The Swiss and Amazon models look strikingly similar to me.
Working to make delivery robots people-friendly
Amzaon is working with advocacy groups to make Scout more accessible, such as partnering with the World Institute on Disability to test the device’s interactions with people with disabilities.
Just as with the autonomous robot mail and small package delivery services in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, do not select a robot for delivery.
In Switzerland, the postal authorities decide whether the package is delivered by person or by robot.
With Amazon, customers order the usual way – on the app or on the website, with the same same delivery options—including free Same-Day, One-Day, and Two-Day shipping for Prime members. Packages are then delivered by one of the company’s partners, or by Scout.
Of course, if you don’t live in a city where Scout is being tested, your package can’t be delivered by a robot for a selfie.
Amazon also has partnered with businesses in all field-testing locations by renting space for Scout Home Bases. These structures house Scout devices – a robot garage and recharing station – and act as dispatch points for hyper-local deliveries.
As demand for home delivery continues to surge, such high-tech bijou robots are allowing Amazon to reduce the number of vehicles on neighborhood roads, which also reduces pollution and congestion.