Feeling the heat from Amazon, Walmart and Kroger, FedEx will trial an autonomous last-mile delivery robot of its own in summer 2019. With the FedEx SameDay Bot, retailers can accept orders from nearby shoppers and deliver them, by bot, directly to their homes or businesses on the same day.
FedEx plans to test the bot in select markets, including its headquarters city of Memphis, Tenn., pending final city approvals. The test will involve deliveries between select unnamed FedEx Office locations. FedEx Office currently offers a SameDay City delivery service that operates in 32 markets and 1,900 cities, using branded FedEx vehicles and uniformed FedEx employees.
FedEx is collaborating with retailers such as Walmart, AutoZone, Lowe’s, Target and Walgreens to “help assess retailers’ autonomous delivery needs,” but there are no specifics on what those partnerships entail. Execs from AutoZone, Lowe’s, Target, Walgreens and Pizza Hut all made statements about the partnership, but none of them indicated if, when or to what scale the bot would be deployed.
“Consider pros who could save time and money by never leaving the job site for the critical tools and supplies they need from Lowe’s,” said Don Frieson, EVP of Supply Chain at Lowe’s in a statement.
The four-wheeled FedEx bot is designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses. The bot features technology such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances; and multiple cameras that are designed to allow the zero-emission, battery-powered bot to be aware of its surroundings.
These features are coupled with machine learning algorithms to detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path and allow the bot to follow road and safety rules. The proprietary technology is designed to help the bot navigate unpaved surfaces, curbs and even steps for door-to-door deliveries. The bot can roam sidewalks and roadways at a top speed of 10 miles per hour.
The FedEx bot is being developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp. and its founder Dean Kamen, inventor of technologies such as the iBot Personal Mobility Device and the Segway scooter.
This prototype will be refined to meet safety standards, regulations and the specific needs of customers.