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Amazon stops testing autonomous ‘Scout’ robots that drive around neighbourhoods

 (Amazon)
(Amazon)

Amazon has stopped testing “Scout”, its autonomous robot that would drive around neighbourhoods, dropping off packages.

The team building the robot has been scaled back and the company is postponing its tests, according to a report in Bloomberg. However the company has insisted that it is not abandoning the plan entirely.

Instead, it will be scaled back because “there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs”, an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge.

“As a result, we are ending our field tests and reorienting the program,” the company said. “We are working with employees during this transition, matching them to open roles that best fit their experience and skills.”

Amazon has been trialling the Scout robots since 2019. Then, it noted that its robots “are the size of a small cooler, and roll along sidewalks at a walking pace”, as Amazon launched trials in its home state of Washington.

It said that the robot had been specifically developed with a view to “ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path”.

The company did not give any specific indication of the problems that early users had with those robots, or why they had given negative feedback.

Amazon has gained some fame for testing a variety of different ways to complete the final part of its deliveries, having also trialed other technology such as drones. But for the most part those tests have not yet succeeded, and the vast majority of deliveries are done by humans.

The decision to cut back work on Scout is part of a broader move to stop some of the more speculative and future-facing work, amid a slowdown in growth. It has abandoned a number of other products in recent months, the site noted.