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Robots won’t take over Amazon's jobs anytime soon, but they might be zipping through your neighborhood

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May 2, 2019

The future of robotics has arrived... kind of. 

Amazon warehouse employees don't have to worry about being replaced by machines for at least another 10 years, according to a report by Engadget. The company's director of robotics fulfillment, Scott Anderson, described the current state of automation for the company's warehouses as "very limited."

For example, robots aren't exactly dainty, and can often damage items while picking up merchandise out of a bin. At the moment, there's no replacing human efficiency, judgment, and precision. All of those things become even more important when it comes to Amazon's food delivery service.

Amazon warehouse robot

Credit: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

"Just imagine if you want bananas, I want my bananas to be firm, others like their bananas to be ripe. How do you get a robot to choose that?" said Derek Jones, the company's global director of environment, health, and safety.

But just because one branch of Amazon robotics is still in its infancy, doesn't mean all our 21st-century tech aspirations aren't ready to be rolled out. Per GeekWire, Washington state governor Jay Inslee has signed a bill into law that allows for the introduction of on-street delivery bots in the Pacific Northwest state.

This was made possible by the efforts of Starship, an Estonia-based company founded by the creators of Skype, which builds delivery robots. They worked so closely with Washington's state legislature to get this law passed, that the hard copy of the bill, waiting to be signed, was delivered to Inslee by one of the company's machines.

Starship delivery bot

Credit: Starship

“Thank you, Starship... but I can assure you, their technology will never replace the Washington state legislature,” Inslee said right before placing his signature on the bill.

The full bill can be found here, and it contains some interesting details. Regulations forbid the robots from traveling over 6mph, weighing over 120 pounds, and crossing anywhere other than at a crosswalk. In addition, they have to yield to pedestrians and bikes, while maintaining effective brakes. An operator must be controlling and monitoring the machine at all times, which can also be tracked by a unique ID number akin to a license plate on a car.

The new law doesn't just allow for Starship to begin sending its technological minions out to start delivering packages. In fact, the bill opens the door for all kinds of companies like Amazon and FedEx, both of which revealed delivery bots this year.


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