Amazon is piloting its own delivery robot

It was, of course, just a matter of time before Amazon deployed delivery robots. The company has had a robotics wing for a number of years now, though much of its public-facing side has been focused on warehouse logistics. Today, however, it took the wraps off Scout. The six-wheeled robot looks a fair bit like […]

It was, of course, just a matter of time before Amazon deployed delivery robots. The company has had a robotics wing for a number of years now, though much of its public-facing side has been focused on warehouse logistics. Today, however, it took the wraps off Scout.

The six-wheeled robot looks a fair bit like a number of the delivery robots already being piloted on sidewalks all over the world. This one, however, was apparently developed in-house by Amazon. As the company notes, the electric system is the size of a beach cooler and cruises along at roughly a walking pace.

The ‘bot is going to be piloted in Snohomish County, Washington, which boarders Seattle’s King County. The company no doubt wanted to get word out before residents were confused by little blue robots cruising around their otherwise quiet neighborhoods. There’s even an ad with jaunty startup music to assure people they’ve got nothing to fear.

The pilot program involves six Scouts to start. The ‘bots are designed to autonomously reach their destination, but these early models will be accompanied by Amazon employees to make sure everything goes as planned. If Amazon does adopt Scout more widely, the robot could eventually replace last mile logistics from carriers like UPS, FedEx and USPS.

Kiwi blames ‘human error’ after delivery robot catches fire

Late last week, onlookers captured video and images of a Kiwi delivery robot moments after catching fire on the U.C. Berkeley campus. The startup has been piloting the robots on the University campus for around two years now (we profiled them back in May), largely without incident, but this is no doubt not how it […]

Late last week, onlookers captured video and images of a Kiwi delivery robot moments after catching fire on the U.C. Berkeley campus. The startup has been piloting the robots on the University campus for around two years now (we profiled them back in May), largely without incident, but this is no doubt not how it wanted to gain national recognition.

Kiwi confirmed the incident in a blog post Saturday, working to minimize negative PR, noting that challenges “have impacted less than 0.6% of our robot fleet.” The challenge in this case apparently stemmed from the pint-sized delivery robot’s battery, which wasn’t replaced in time.

[Caution: dirty words above.]

The battery ignited with “some smoke and minor flames,” causing a student to grab a nearby fire extinguisher before the Berkeley Fire Department arrived to make sure that it wouldn’t reignite. Kiwi says it pulled all robots out of service as it investigated the issue, switching to hand delivery for food.

“We learned that the root cause was human error when replacing the batteries, where a defective battery was put in place of a functioning one,” the company writes. “This caused an exceedingly rare occurrence of the battery experiencing thermal runaway.”

Kiwi adds that it’s putting a new battery review process in place to help avoid similar incidents in the future.