By: Davina Seoparsan

Meet Scout.


New legislation will allow Amazon delivery robots, referred to as Scout, to be able to make deliveries in Virginia. The legislation passed the House of Delegates with an 88-12 vote after unanimously clearing in the Senate in the weeks prior.[1] Scout will be allowed to use sidewalks and speed-specific road shoulders contingent on the robot’s limited disruption of traffic.[2] This delivery service has been officially cleared from the list of motorized wheeled contraptions that the government is able to ban from sidewalks and crosswalks.[3] That being said, localities and the Board of Transportation are able adopt additional requirements to enhance safety in lieu of the ability to ban the robots entirely.[4]


Legislators Like Scout!


Virginia has always been an active state when it comes to technology related delivery services[5]. Virginia was the first state to allow delivery devices when it passed a law which allowed robots of no more than 50 pounds to cruise sidewalks at about 10 mph[6]. The House version of the recent bill will allow robots weighing 500 pounds to move at the same speed, even though Scout weighs in at around 100 pounds.[7] Don’t worry: the robots still have to be courteous and use crosswalks just like everyone else[8]. Previously, motor vehicles, including robots, were forbidden on sidewalks[9].


Do We Like Scout?


Though there is optimism regarding Scout, there is still a decent amount of technological uncertainty that could potentially lead to an array of legal issues[10]. When asked about the average speed at which Scout moves and how often they reach 10 mph, Amazon was less than certain[11]. The company only has a handful of these devices that have been tested in operation, so there is very limited data.[12] Amazon has stated that the goal is to operate at the safest speed but has yet to expand on that concept. [13]


Many have begun to associate these personal delivery systems with self-driving cars. However, roads have stoplights, lanes, speed limits and some semblance of regulation. Sidewalks do not. I hate walking through a crowded sidewalk- imagine dodging people and robots! Better yet, imagine a robot trying to dodge people. Aside from dodging, these robots will have to navigate roads when they cross streets[14]. The company that assisted in the development of these robots, Starship Technologies[15], has already faced scrutiny after a wheelchair-bound student complained about the robots, specifically after struggling to navigate the same street as one of these robots[16]. This complaint leaves room for many potential suits from those impacted by disabilities- this will potentially warrant an ADA response.


Oh, and did I mention that some of these delivery systems are notorious for catching on fire? This might be something to pay attention to[17].


Scout Probably Won’t Ruin Everything


The truth is, we won’t know what the future of Scout holds. It’s too early to tell. Virginia seems to have accounted for these legal uncertainties, as the bill requires robot operators to have liability coverage of at least $100,000.[18]



[1] Jonathan Capriel, Amazon’s self-driving delivery. Robots are green-lit. for Virginia. And not just on sidewalks., Washington Business Journal (Feb. 25, 2020),

[2] Sean Scott, Meet Scout: Field testing a new delivery system with Amazon Scout, The Amazon Blog (Jan. 23, 2019),

[3] Capriel, supra note 1.

[4] See id.

[5] Ian Duncan, Virginia town becomes home to nation’s first drone package delivery service, The Washington Post (Oct. 19, 2019),

[6] Lulu Chang, Virginia is for lovers- and now, legalized delivery robots too, Digital Trends- Emerging Tech (March 3, 2017),

[7] Capriel, supra note 1.

[8] Matt Leonard, Patent Pending: Why did the Amazon delivery robot cross the road?, Supply Chain Dive (Oct. 25, 2019),

[9] Capriel, supra note 1.

[10] Matt Simon, The Prime Challenges for Amazon’s New Delivery Robot, Wired (Jan. 23, 2019),

[11] Capriel, supra note 1.

[12] Scott, supra note 2.

[13] See id.

[14] Matt Simon, The Prime Challenges for Amazon’s New Delivery Robot, Wired (Jan. 23, 2019),

[15] The Self-Driving Delivery Robot, Starship,

[16] Bill Schackner, Pitt benches food-delivery robots after complaint from a student, Post Gazette (Oct 23. 2019),

[17] Amazon Scout robots take to pavements in Washington State, BBC News (Jan. 24, 2019),

[18] Capriel, supra note 1.

image source:×2160/1200×800/filters:focal(1361×821:1879×1339)/