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Amazon expands delivery robot trials to more US states

Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, is expanding its delivery robot trials to more US states.

The company had initially field tested its delivery robot in Snohomish County, in Washington state, as reported by Robotics and Automation News in January this year.

The deliveries in Washington were made using a robot called “Scout”, which look like they’re a modified version of Starship Technologies’ machine, and were being offered as part of Amazon’s Prime subscription service, which includes free deliveries on most orders.

Now, Amazon has added delivery areas in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.

Writing on Amazon’s blog, Sean Scott, vice president of Amazon Scout, says: “We’re thrilled to bring Amazon Scout to two new communities.

“Adding Atlanta and Franklin to our existing operations gives Scout devices the opportunity to operate in varied neighborhoods with different climates than they operate in today.”

The Scout robot is the size of a small cooler and can can navigate around pets, pedestrians, and other objects in its path.

The new areas will see “a small number” of Amazon Scout robots in each city, delivering Monday through Friday, during daylight hours, and initially be accompanied by a human worker.

Scott says: “Customers in both areas will order just as they normally would and their Amazon packages will be delivered either by one of our trusted carrier partners or by Amazon Scout.

“The same delivery options are available, including fast, Free Same-Day, One-Day, and Two-Day shipping for Prime members. The devices will autonomously follow their delivery route, and initially be accompanied by an Amazon Scout Ambassador.”

The market for what’s called “last-mile” delivery robots – meaning the final part of the journey to the customers’ locations – is expected to grow to become worth around a billion dollars, according to research by IDTechEx.

One of the reasons for the optimism about their growth is the coronavirus pandemic and the move towards a “contactless culture”, says David Chen, co-founder and CEO at Orbecc.

Further, the US Senate passed a bill to allow delivery robots on public sidewalks, thereby clarifying a situation that was causing some confusion in some areas, where local authorities were receiving complaints about the robots, leading them to ask the operators to cease for a while.

Senator Jim Perry, a sponsor of the bill, says he considers the bill a “pilot program”.

As quoted in News Observer, Perry says: “It’s not like we’re going to see 20,000 of them tomorrow in a city. It will be a slower ramp up process.”

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