Fully automated shipping warehouses still a decade away assures Amazon
Scott Anderson who is the director of Amazon’s fulfilments cleared the air about these rumors saying that fully automated shipping warehouses at Amazon are at least a decade away
As of today, robots are primarily used in doing repeatable and highly specific tasks for which they have to be accurately programmed.
Even mundane tasks to be performed by robots require sophisticated programming.
The e-commerce giant Amazon recently drew a lot of flak from the general populace when it was reported by The Verge that an automatic system that determines the productivity levels of employees was used in the Amazon warehouses. Apart from this the system automatically terminates slow and unproductive employees as well. This report added fuel to the fire that automation was becoming more and more crucial to the operations at Amazon raising panic among the public who are afraid that robots will take over their jobs.
However, Scott Anderson who is the director of Amazon’s fulfilments cleared the air about these rumors saying that fully automated shipping warehouses at Amazon are at least a decade away and that human element was very much important in the functioning of the Amazon warehouses. From his point of view, 10 years is a long time especially in the world of technology. However, to the 10,000 plus employees working at Amazon’s warehouses and who might be out of jobs if the fully automated warehouses become a reality, 10 years seems like a rather short period of time.
These comments have also brought to light the current pace of the advancement in AI and automation.
As of today, robots are primarily used in doing repeatable and highly specific tasks for which they have to be accurately programmed. For a robot to do a task that it isn’t programmed for requires expensive and tedious reprogramming. The robots that will have to be used in dynamic environments like Amazon warehouses will have to carry out a variety of different tasks and are currently strictly in the research and development stages. Even mundane tasks to be performed by robots require sophisticated programming. Thus, AI being capable of doing human tasks is out of the question at least by the standards of technology today.
Amazon employs humans since no matter what the programming of a robot, it won’t be able to perform tasks with the level of dexterity of human hands.
Many automated systems only work when paired with human assistance.
However, this being said it’s not that Amazon won’t be looking for ways to automate more and more of their tasks. There are already 100,000 mobile robots working on factory floors. As there are more and more advancements in technology, robots are gaining new levels of motor controls and vision that are rapidly approaching human levels of development and Amazon is one of the companies pioneering such AI.
Currently, Amazon has around 110 warehouses in operation along with 45 sorting centers and 50 delivery stations in the US, where only a fraction of the work is done by AI. These operations employee around 125,000 workers. One of the instances of Amazon using automated systems is the use of robots called “drives” that are used to deliver large piles of products to workers by running on preset paths.
Thus, we can conclude that such technology is still in its rudimentary stages and is simply too clumsy and inaccurate to replace the human workforce.
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