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Amazon Scraps Scout Robot Delivery Tests: Report

Amazon’s cooler-sized robot named Scout has reportedly been scrapped, bringing an end to the company’s autonomous home delivery pilot. 

A spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg it “learned through feedback that there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs” and it’s now “reorienting” the Scout program. 

Amazon did not respond to a Sourcing Journal request for further comment Friday. 

Bloomberg reported the Scout division employed about 400 people, with the company telling the publication it would help place those workers in new roles. The idea of the technology is not going completely away, with Bloomberg reporting a small number of staff would remain to work on autonomous robots for use in some capacity. 

Thirteen job listings for the Amazon Scout division appeared to be active on LinkedIn Friday. Technavio data sees the autonomous delivery robot market swelling by $24.78 billion from 2021 through 2026 at a combined annual growth rate of 19.85 percent, with e-commerce responsible for much of that expansion.

The update on Scout marks Amazon’s latest move to retool its business to align with the current operating environment in which sales growth has slowed from the height of the pandemic.

Amazon has either delayed or shuttered certain fulfillment and warehouse facilities to right-size its real estate footprint, which ballooned during the pandemic to accommodate the surge in online orders. 

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This week it was reported the company froze corporate hiring in its retail division. It also said it would discontinue a relatively new video-calling device aimed at children, called Amazon Glow.  The company’s primary care business Amazon Care is expected to be shuttered by the end of the year. 

Amazon first revealed the Scout bot in 2019, with the start of testing in Snohomish County, Wash. 

A total of six of the six-wheeled robots launched to help with delivery to Amazon customers. The pilot began with delivery Monday through Friday during daytime hours and, while billed as autonomous, the tests included a human following Scout along its route. 

Customers ordered as they normally would via Amazon, with orders fulfilled by one of the typical carriers or the bot. 

Scout delivery tests, since the Washington rollout, were expanded to Irvine, Calif.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Franklin, Tenn. 

“Its development is an ongoing collaboration with customers, who are helping us refine various aspects of the service,” Amazon said in a June update on Scout. 

That refining included how the bot could be made more accessible to disabled people, Amazon said by way of example. 

The company leased up space to act as microfulfillment and dispatch centers for the robot deliveries, which it called Scout Home Bases. 

“As demand for home delivery continues to surge, our high-tech bijou robots are allowing Amazon to decrease the number of vehicles on neighborhood roads, thereby enhancing safety,” the company’s June update said. “As a result, we’re reducing congestion, limiting wear-and-tear on local infrastructure and closing in on our ambition for carbon-neutral delivery.” 

The company had said at that time it would continue expanding Scout to more neighborhoods.  

The cost-trimming efforts come as Amazon said it’s boosting spend elsewhere, including the wages front. 

The company said it planned to hire 150,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal positions in preparation for the peak holiday shipping season.

Late last month it said it would pump nearly $1 billion into increased wages for fulfillment center and transportation employees, in addition to a new flexible paycheck program and career development programs. 

The company said average hourly starting pay for employees would be bumped $1 to $19 an hour, based on a range of $16 to $26 an hour. 

The company faces growing cricism from some workers in its warehousing and transportation divisions on the wages and safety front, the latter being particularly timely with three Amazon facilities seeing fires this week. 

Meanwhile, the possibility of a second work stoppage at the company’s air logistics hub in San Bernardino, Calif. was raised by a group of workers on Thursday. The disgruntled employees said they’ve set a deadline of Oct. 10, a day before Amazon’s Prime Early Access sale is set to begin, for the company to address their calls for a $5 an hour pay increase and improved working conditions. 

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the issues raised at the San Bernardino facility.