The Truth About Amazon's Delivery Bots

Until you see them with your own eyes, they may as well be nothing but a fun rumor spread by some eager Amazon tech fan. But Amazon's distinctive, self-driving, delivery robots are very much a thing, and they are now testing in two new locations: in Atlanta, Ga., and in Franklin, Tenn. (via The Verge).

The blue robots are all named Scout and are still considered to be prototypes. In an Amazon blog post, Sean Scott, the Vice President for Amazon Scout, says "Amazon Scout delivery devices are built to be inherently safe. They're the size of a small cooler and move at a walking pace. Each delivery device can navigate around pets, pedestrians, and other objects (including surfboards!) in its path." And even though they move around on their own, they still need to be accompanied by a human minder, also known as an Amazon Scout Ambassador. Until Amazon decided to deploy Scout in the South, he was only being tested in Snohomish County, Wash., and Irvine, Calif. 

Are big cities ready for Amazon delivery bots?

Scout first went into service in 2019, and now, the pandemic has actually proven to be a good time to test the six-wheeled robot, since more and more customers are opting for contactless delivery for groceries and more. But although early trials have proven Scout's worth in those geographic areas, The Verge points out that navigating a suburban neighborhood is very different from navigating a complex urban street. TechCrunch says larger cities, like New York and San Francisco, already have indicated they aren't exactly thrilled by the idea of having a driverless robot going around crowded sidewalks. But Amazon does throw in a sweetener for the cities where it chooses to test Scout. In his blog note, Scott says they partner with local schools "to support STEM and robotics activities, helping to build the next generation of innovators in both cities."

Engadget says Amazon isn't the only company to experiment with delivery robots — other companies like Alibaba are developing them, too. The Alibaba delivery vehicle, called the G Plus, even has facial recognition to ensure the right person is picking up the package. For now, we don't know if Scout is able to identify his package recipient. Maybe that's why he still needs a babysitter?