Amazon ends Scout delivery robot tests

The Amazon Scout robot, a small six-wheeled delivery drone meant to deliver packages to peoples doors, has been scrapped. According to the e-commerce giant it is ‘reorienting’ the programme and is shutting down the field testing. It is part of Amazon’s cost cutting measures, as it is feeling the economic pressure like all other tech giants. The Scout team has been disbanded and most of the 400-strong team will be offered other positions within the company, according to Bloomberg.

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Alisa Carroll, Amazon spokesperson, said that the company isn’t abandoning the project altogether, but a small skeleton crew will remain to consider the uses of its autonomous robot delivery systems.

“During our Scout limited field test, we worked to create a unique delivery experience, but learned through feedback that there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs. As a result, we are ending our field tests and reorienting the program. We are working with employees during this transition, matching them to open roles that best fit their experience and skills,” Carroll said.

The Scout robot has been in testing since 2019 and initially only six Scout robots were deployed in the Seattle area, Amazon’s home base. The machine can autonomously follow a delivery route, and though it was accompanied by a human employee for the tests, it can stop at a customer’s front door and open its lid to allow them to collect their purchase. After that initial rollout, Amazon expanded its tests to Southern California, Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.

Carroll mentioned that the programme weren’t meeting customers’ needs, although didn’t expand on how it failed to do so. It is clear, however, that Amazon is scaling back on its risky, experimental projects.

It will be interesting to see how Amazon’s cost cutting affects its planned rollout in South Africa, slated to be in early 2023.