Amazon tests new robot delivery program
Emma Dobbs, Section Editor
Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person, with a current net worth of $131.5 billion dollars. The CEO of Amazon since 1996 is no stranger to success, and has worked to keep his company profitable. Among Amazon’s many retail successes is their innovation of programmable Amazon dash buttons that allow consumers to repurchase products with the touch of a button, and in-home Alexa products. Now, the retailer is revisiting a past idea of delivering packages with automated machines. In 2013, Amazon started the program Prime Air. The online retailer hopes to use drones in this program to get packages to prime customers in 30 minutes or less. According to Amazon’s website, “Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.” In their effort to make transportation and delivery efficient, Amazon has created Scout, a blue, six-wheeled robot that will deliver packages in Snohomish County. The robot moves at a walking pace and is the approximate size of a drink cooler. Currently, the “Scout” program is going through a trial process in Snohomish, Wash. Amazon has created six delivery robots to test. The robots will only make deliveries Monday through Friday during daylight hours. While the robots are being tested, Amazon employees will accompany packages to ensure the safe delivery of packages and efficient navigation of the robots “around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.” Customers in the Snohomish area who order same-day, one-day, or two-day shipping can opt to have packages delivered by the Scout robots. Scout robots will only travel on sidewalks for the safety of vehicles, robots, and packages. While the progress of Amazon’s Scout program has seen more significant growth than its Prime Air program, Amazon is late to using this method of delivery. Starship Technologies, headquartered in San Francisco, creates robots similar to Amazon’s Scout and has manufactured robots since 2014. The companies’ Starship deliveries program is credited as the world’s first robot delivery service.
Starship robots can carry packages within a 2-mile radius. Packages delivered by Starship robots take 5 to 30 minutes to arrive, and customers place orders through a mobile app. Like Amazon’s Scout robots, Starship robots are small, compact, and lightweight, and move at the speed of a pedestrian. Starship currently delivers by robot to five different community and university campuses in California and Virginia. The U.K. Kiwi Campus, a startup company, uses robots they’ve called Kiwibots to deliver food to UC Berkeley students. The program was introduced in the spring of 2017, and has become a necessity among students. Kiwibots travel campus sidewalks to deliver food to students who order through a mobile app. While they may be late to try this technique of delivery, Amazon is moving forward in implementing and testing their new delivery service program. With the notable success of other companies using robots for delivery, Amazon has the potential to make their delivery service more efficient and successful.