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Amazon Abandons Home Delivery Robot Tests in Latest Cost Cuts

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is shutting down tests of its home delivery robot, the latest sign that the e-commerce giant is starting to wind down experimental projects amid slowing sales growth.

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Work on Scout, an autonomous machine launched about three years ago, has already been halted, according to a person familiar with the situation. Amazon spokesperson Alisa Carroll said the Scout team was being disbanded and would be offered new jobs in the organization. About 400 people were working on the project globally, according to the person, who requested anonymity to discuss a private matter. A skeleton crew will continue to consider the idea of an autonomous robot, but the current iteration isn’t working.

“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,” Carroll said. “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.”

The Seattle-based company began testing the cooler-sized bots on suburban sidewalks outside Seattle in 2019, before expanding the trials to Southern California, Georgia and Tennessee. The slow-moving devices, accompanied by human minders during tests, were designed to stop at a front door and pop open their lids so a customer could pick up a package. Amazon said the battery-powered robots were part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its delivery operations.

Only a few month ago, Amazon was still holding meet-and-greets in communities where it was testing the devices. Sean Scott, the vice president who oversaw the robot’s development, left the company last year, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Under Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy, Amazon is adjusting to slowing growth in its core retail group, delaying some investments and pulling the plug on others. The company has a reputation for backing radical experiments that can take years to come to fruition, a roster that includes cashierless stores, flying delivery drones and a satellite constellation that promises to beam internet access around the world.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Amazon was discontinuing Amazon Glow, a kids-focused video calling device. The company has also frozen hiring for its corporate retail teams and is winding down Amazon Care, its startup telehealth service.

(Updates with more context in the second paragraph.)

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