The company's Scout vehicles join the growing ranks of last-mile delivery robots crawling city streets and college campuses.
Amazon is testing a wheeled robotic delivery vehicle in a Snohomish County neighborhood, the company said Wednesday.
Amazon Scout, a six-wheeled, cooler-sized electric vehicle, resembles other new approaches to last-mile delivery from competitors such as Starship Technologies. Sean Scott, an Amazon executive in charge of Scout, said in a blog post that the vehicles were developed at the company’s Seattle research and development lab, “ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.”
The Snohomish County test involves six Scout vehicles crawling the sidewalks during daylight hours with the assistance of an Amazon employee, though the company eventually intends for the vehicles to “autonomously follow their delivery route,” Scott wrote.
That said, it’s not clear whether the delivery systems can complete their deliveries without human intervention. A video released with Amazon’s announcement shows a customer walking out of her home to the sidewalk to retrieve a package from the vehicle.
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An Amazon representative said customers do not have to be home to receive a delivery. During the test, Amazon employees — referred to by the representative as “Ambassadors” — are expected to remove packages from the vehicles and carry them to customers’ doorsteps.
Amazon has some 21 Seattle job openings listed in relation to the Scout system, including experts in computer vision, robotics and software engineering. “Join us on our mission to build a highly scalable mission-critical robotics system that will transform our customers’ experiences in ways we can’t even imagine yet,” reads one job description, which also notes the company’s goal for a robotics program that will “scale by many orders of magnitude.”
Amazon would not disclose where in Snohomish County the test is taking place. The company also declined to say where or how the Scout vehicles are loaded with parcels for delivery.
Amazon describes Snohomish County as “our initial partner for Amazon Scout,” and quotes County Executive Dave Somers saying, “We are delighted to welcome Amazon Scout into our community.” He added that the county is “a great place for entrepreneurial creativity.”
But Somers, through a spokesman, referred questions — including about the location of the test — to Amazon. Nor did he respond to additional questions about the county’s oversight, if any, of Amazon’s testing, any fees the county may be collecting and whether the county was contractually bound not to comment.