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Amazon scraps Scout home delivery robot

World’s largest marketplace will continue to explore the idea of an autonomous robot

Scout, Amazon's cooler-sized autonomous robot, will no longer be making test deliveries (Photo: Shutterstock)

The world’s largest marketplace continues to axe its more experimental programs amid slowing sales growth.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced this week that it halted testing of its Scout home delivery robot and is offering new positions to 400 people who worked on the project. Amazon began testing Scout in 2019, but customer feedback revealed that it fell short of expectations.

“During our Scout limited field test, we worked to create a unique delivery experience, but learned through feedback that there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs,” Alisa Carroll, an Amazon spokesperson, told members of the media. “As a result, we are ending our field tests and reorienting the program. We are working with employees during this transition, matching them to open roles that best fit their experience and skills.”

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Scout made its debut on the sidewalks of Seattle in 2019. Since then, the cooler-sized robot has popped up in Georgia, Tennessee and Southern California, delivering packages to customers’ doorsteps in an internal compartment. The bots were accompanied by human “ambassadors” who could step in should something not go according to plan.

Amazon posted an optimistic blog post update about Scout just four months ago. But between then and now, it made the decision to greatly scale back on the program.

However, the e-commerce giant isn’t totally abandoning the idea of an autonomous robot. Carroll said that a skeleton crew will continue to look into the technology, though the vast majority of workers will be reassigned to other programs.

Of note, Sean Scott, a former vice president who oversaw the program, left Amazon about a year ago according to his LinkedIn page. Additionally, Aleksandar Kojic, the robotics director of autonomy for Scout, departed in July.

Watch: Robotics strategy is not one size fits all

The scrapping of Scout is the latest in a series of cost-cutting maneuvers for Amazon, which has experienced slowing sales growth in 2022. So far this year, the company has closed, canceled or delayed the openings of over 60 warehouses in the U.S. alone. 

And earlier this week, it implemented a corporate hiring freeze in its retail business, including several technology positions.

Still, the firm is feeling confident enough to run a second Prime Day-like sale next week. The event, Prime Early Access, will run Tuesday and Wednesday in 15 countries. It’s the first time Amazon has attempted to host two such sales in a single year, and analysts will more than likely be looking to the event to gauge the company’s strength as it closes out the fiscal year.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.