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Amazon Rolls Out Automated Delivery Machines

28 January 2019 - 10:42 by Mike Price

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Autonomous self-contained vehicles which deliver packages to the doorsteps of customers who order online have been introduced by Amazon in a handful of US neighbourhoods this month, according to Internet Retailing.

The zero-emissions robots have a limited carrying capacity and can only travel as fast as an average human walks, which makes sense since in this trial run an employee of the e-commerce giant will be right beside them throughout the journey.

In the long run, the aim is to allow these machines to work unaccompanied, delivering goods to people without clogging up public roads with vans and providing same-day shipping on a wider scale across the world.

Known as the Scout, Amazon’s self-driving delivery system can detect objects in its path and take action to avoid them. This means that dynamic hurdles like people walking on the pavement and static obstacles like lamp posts will not pose a problem for it, at least in theory.

In recent years there have been efforts to develop and introduce airborne delivery drones, yet it seems likely that this land-based solution will be more appealing to members of the public while also posing less of a danger.

The first real-world deployment of the robots is taking place in the suburbs rather than a busy city environment. This is believed to be due to the fact that there will be less foot traffic and thus a lower likelihood of complaints being made and obstacles being encountered.

This raises the question as to whether such a scheme will ever work in densely populated urban areas. Amazon will perhaps take a staggered approach to the introduction rather than bringing the Scout to customers in places where the delivery would be hindered by the sheer volume of pedestrians.