Amazon unveiled Scout, its own li’l rover delivery robot via a corporate blog post today. Details are scant, but the cooler-sized, six-wheeled bot will make its debut near Amazon’s (original) HQ in Snohomish County, Washington.
The company’s announcement didn’t mention food or groceries, only saying Scout is “designed to safely get packages to customers using autonomous delivery devices.” But it’s not hard to imagine the rover bot transporting snacks, drinks and possibly even restaurant delivery (if sufficiently temperature controlled).
We don’t know exactly where in Snohomish county Scout is available, or how many robots will be in the initial fleet. Customers just place their Amazon order as they normally would, select a delivery range including “fast” (their word) and same day, and the package will arrive either by delivery partner or by Scout.
Though Scout is autonomous and will eventually roam the streets on its own, it will initially only run during daylight hours and will have a human Amazon handler accompanying it.
We’re not even done with January and it’s already shaping up to be a watershed year for delivery robots. In just this month:
- Starship deployed 25 robots to George Mason University to deliver food to hungry students and faculty
- Pepsi launched snack bots (built by Robby) at the University of the Pacific
- Robomart announced a mobile commerce pilot with Stop & Shop
And that doesn’t even include the forthcoming Postmates robot, “Serve”, or the Kiwi bots already making deliveries in Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, or Marble’s robot delivery rolling out across Texas.
If Scout’s trial proves successful, Amazon’s involvement in the space will certainly light a fire under the existing competition and accelerate robot delivery . And it looks like Amazon is putting some muscle behind the program. The Seattle Times pointed out, there are 21 job openings at Amazon related to Scout.
What will be exciting to watch with Scout is how this integrates into Amazon’s overall logistical arsenal. The company is obsessed with efficiency (and getting you to buy more stuff). It’s easy to see why Amazon wants in on delivery robots. Robots can (eventually) scurry around 24 hours a day delivering just about any type of package. They don’t take breaks, and if Bezo’s and company is smart, they’ll follow the Woowa Bros. approach and have these delivery bots do double duty and take away any empty amazon boxes from your home.
In addition to Amazon’s logistical genius, the other thing going for Amazon, which in turn could push the entire robot delivery sector forward, is clout. A company of Amazon’s size has a lot more political muscle than a startup in dealing with city and state lawmakers to get robot-friendly regulations passed.
Of course, as with any robot news, there will be questions of what workers are displaced, and what that means for society as a whole. It’s a topic (among many) we’ll actually be tackling at our upcoming Articulate conference in San Francisco on April 16. It’s a one-day summit that will explore what’s happening with food robots and automation, and where it’s all heading. Get your tickets now!