It really is astounding at how we can so easily erase the need for basic pedestrian amenity when new technology rolls around. Even the people at Amazon did not see the obvious usurping of the sidewalk by their six wheeled sidewalk delivery robot as being a problem. You can see in the video below as “Scout” (yes they named him) dutifully takes up most of the sidewalk as he rolls on his route. There is no space left over for a pedestrian, a baby buggy or a user of any mobility device.
But now Amazon as reported in the Business Insider wants pedestrians to know that not only do they need to give way for these robots on narrow sidewalks, but “that the public should treat these robots in the same way that they would pedestrians.”.
Yes you heard that right. The sidewalk delivery robots want to have the same rights and the same rules of the road as do pedestrians, and also will use the road only if a pedestrian would do the same with a level of comfort.
Sean Scott of Amazon states “If you feel safe walking on that road, that’s where we want to be. We want to be viewed as a pedestrian and treated as a pedestrian.”
So here is one more device that wants to take sidewalk space without paying any charge or user fee for taking that away from mobility aid users and pedestrians. And remember autonomous vehicles? Their big hiccup has been the inability to distinguish objects on the road, and the unpredictability of pedestrians. You can now add sidewalk delivery robots to that mix.
You can take a look at Amazon’s write up of how Scout will work and marvel once more at the ability of technology to see an end use to their innovation, with no concept that sharing the road or sidewalk with these devices may come with a cost for the upgrade and maintenance of these facilities. It should not be a free ride for Amazon.