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Amazon Puts its Delivery Robots to the Test in Irvine

Thursday, August 29, 2019

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After testing delivery robots near its home base in Seattle, Amazon has expanded its trial use of Scout to Irvine.

“We’re still in field test mode, and our expansion to the Irvine area is just another in the many steps forward for this new delivery system,” a recent Amazon blog post said.

Scout is a blue, six-wheeled, electric robot about the size of a large drink cooler that travels on the sidewalk and can apparently maneuver around obstacles such as skateboards and trash cans, according to the blog post.

A video on the company’s blog shows the robot gently rolling to a stop in front of a house, where a customer comes out to retrieve a package as the robot’s lid smoothly opens.

During the test phase, a small number of the robots are being dispatched with Irvine orders on weekdays with a human AmazonScout Ambassador tagging along, presumably to make sure the robots and their cargo reach their destination. Using robots for delivery won’t change anything about how customers order, the blog post said.

Amazon approached Irvine officials to let them know about the Scout rollout and get advice on good neighborhoods for testing, Irvine City Manager John Russo said, adding, “They were really interested — among other reasons, I think — because so much of Irvine is flat.”

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the blog post, so it’s unclear what measures are in place to deter people from damaging or stealing the robots.

Rather than replacing human delivery workers, Scout is expected to help them do their jobs, AmazonScout Vice President Sean Scott told tech and electronics website Cnet.

“When robots work with people, the end result is more efficient than when they try to automate everything,” said Doug Spinn of Robot27, an Irvine robot automation company that is not connected to Amazon. “Sometimes a person is replaced, but the hysteria that’s been going on about the robot apocalypse is really just ridiculous.”

Far from fearing Scout, Scott told Cnet, Amazon customers “find the device really cute.”

Source: Orange County Register

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Category: Technology

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