Amazon's Delivery Scout
Written by Lucy Black   
Saturday, 26 January 2019

As we have said before, self-driving delivery vehicles are going to be as disruptive, if not more so, than self-driving cars and they might be here sooner. Amazon has, at long last, stopped pretending that drones are going to be the last mile delivery option and has built its own autonomous bot.


A lot of companies are trying out autonomous delivery vehicles, but when Amazon gets into the act there is a new air of "it might just happen". In this case, it is actually happening as the delivery cart called Scout is deliverying packages in  Snohomish County, Washington. At the moment it will only deliver in daylight hours and an Amazon employee will walk with the device to make sure it works. Eventually the device will be allowed out on its own.

Take a look at it in action:

You might notice that it looks a lot like the self-driving delivery vechical from Starship Technologies, but I suppose there are only a few forms that are reasonable for such a device. What is more important is not so much the physical form but the sensor package and the software that guides the device. No information is available on what makes it work, apart from the fact that it has six wheels.

Could it work?

There are a number of big questions that occur. The first is that it is too slow to deliver many packages in a day. It looks as if one package is all it can manage and you are going to need a lot of Scouts to deliver a reasonable number of packages per day. You could imagine a much faster-moving Scout, but would humans be happy sharing the sidewalk with one?

Then there is the question of where is starts from? A local depot? A drop-off vehicle acting as a mother ship?

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is theft and vandalism. Scouts are going to be very vulnerable to attacks from people. Amazon may have a problem with porch pirates stealing unattended packages, but I can see ingenious thieves getting organized with a Scout-sweep-up van. And do we really think Scouts aren't going to be an attractive target for vandals and street artists. Finally what about potholes and poorly maintained sidewalks?

Is it that the Scout can only be used in upmarket, well-off districts? Perhaps we need drones have to deal with the battle zones after all.

This is still a technology with big potential and big problems, that in the main, have nothing to do with AI.


More Information

Meet Scout

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 January 2019 )