Amazon announced the installation of two new fully autonomous robots in its warehouses. According to the organization, the robots will work alongside employees to lift, move, and sort parcels more safely and effectively.

The two machines, Proteus and Cardinal, will be the first to transfer parcels autonomously among employees without needing a confined operational area. They will be joining the fleet of 520,000 robots already in use at Amazon.

Massive storage pods are currently moved by Kiva and Pegasus robots inside a gated inventory area, utilizing 2D barcodes as a navigational aid. When things need to be removed from pods, packaged, and placed onto employee-operated trolleys, workers call in robots that Amazon named GoCarts.

The new robots will aid in the sorting and moving of parcels, now done by employees. According to Amazon, its goal is not to replace workers but to limit their exposure to dangerous duties.

The robots are meant to augment, not replace humans

While Cardinal will carry the burden of unloading items from conveyor belts in sorting centers, Proteus will drive filled GoCarts alongside people. In a demonstration video, Proteus is seen traveling through an unmarked warehouse area and automatically braking when it senses a person in its path.

Cardinal, which has a large crane arm, will be used to sort goods as they are loaded and lift big ones off the conveyor belts. Cardinal, according to Amazon, will be made available in warehouse settings in 2023 and is now undergoing testing with lifting capacities of up to 50lbs (22.7kg).

The safety angle

Employee safety at Amazon’s warehouses has been under scrutiny recently. According to 2021 research by the labour union coalition Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), the incidence of major accidents at Amazon warehouses in 2020 was 5.9 per 100 workers, which was almost 80 percent higher than the serious injury rate for all other employers in the warehousing business in 2020.

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