Amazon to Release Its Own Army of Delivery Robots

You may want to stop reading in a minute, but it is highly recommended that you don’t if you want to find out what Amazon plans to do with your shopping dollars. After reading the story about this and watching the 46 second video below you are likely to be disappointed with this headline because it is not about the highly anticipated drone delivery system that Amazon claims is the future of package delivery. Instead, it is about Scout, a 6 wheeled piece of plastic that looks more like a toy you would buy for one of your kids at Christmas.

There are so many things wrong with this idea it has caused only the snarkiest and most sarcastic people to give their two cents. Some have said that this is a technology begging to be vandalized if used anywhere except in the ritziest neighborhoods (which may be exactly the point here). It is currently being tested in a suburb north of the company’s headquarters in Seattle, where the weather is reasonable for most of the year, as are the residents.

Then there is the comment about the Scout being easy target practice for fast moving cars. It is clear that despite its AI evasive technology it responds to slow to prevent getting rolled over. There are seamier comments related to using it as a rolling toilet, but the point has been made.

This project clearly was underway before Jeff Bezos got caught cheating on his wife, so don’t try making any connection there (though it would be a great idea to devalue to company if it is put into full production). If you want to ask what the designers and project managers were thinking, don’t bother. This is clearly the result of some drunken weekend party or there is some business tax angle to it.

There is the observation that the Scout takes up about 80 percent of the sidewalk space, so old people will either have to become more agile or get pushed off the sidewalk so the vehicle can make its appointed rounds. Disabled people in those motorized wheelchairs will be able to go head to head with this sidewalk hog, testing its ability to avoid even slow moving objects intent on their destruction.

What we don’t see in the video is what’s underneath the hood. How many packages can fit in there? The company says there is a cooler unit, so that takes up some room. Clearly larger packages are not in the picture here, so the “pesky humans” the company says it will eliminate by using the Scout will have to do the heavier work. An example of technology healing humans at its finest.

It might be hard to believe but there are actually advocates for this technology. Their reasoning seems to primarily be that it is Amazon and thus all things Amazon are good. Also, the sheer size of Amazon allows it to force upon the rest of society its weird and impractical ideas because if we don’t want to shop Amazon we can go elsewhere. Well, push this crap on us and see how we will respond.

But there is a perspective that cannot be overlooked here. Let’s say that Amazon increases its fleet from its current 6 vehicles to 60,000. Like a swarm of locusts they invade the suburbs of America, and as many casual observers are noting, they get damaged, stolen, held for ransom, or used for porta-potties. The cost to repair and replace the technology will end up being passed on to the consumer – meaning you and me. It might be so small you will hardly notice it, such as a $1 increase in Prime membership. People will mock, and Amazon will still profit.

From watching the video there is no way to fix the number of problems that exist with this delivery concept disaster. It is too slow to make a meaningful number of deliveries, perhaps because it is heavy to avoid theft and tipping it over (though people tend to be creative creatures). Reduce the weight to increase the speed and you increase the risk to pedestrians. Thus far it is only being tested during daylight hours, and that limits its usability and cost benefit.

If the Scout is intended only for certain areas of the country, that might be its only hope for a meaningful future. People who are offended because it will only be used in select areas are not likely to impact much of Amazon’s bottom line. Come to think about it, this may be a strategy to pare down some of its customer base to a more manageable, and profitable, size.

It is just a thought. Can we please have our drone delivery service now?


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