Logistics giant FedEx is developing what it describes as “cutting-edge delivery solutions” to meet the rapidly changing needs of consumers.
As part of that development, the company has unveiled the FedEx SameDay Bot – an autonomous delivery device prototype designed to help retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers. (See video below.)
With the bot, retailers will be able to accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day.
FedEx is collaborating with companies such as AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to help assess retailers’ autonomous delivery needs.
On average, more than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location, demonstrating the opportunity for on-demand, hyper-local delivery.
Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx, says: “The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers’ rising expectations.
“The bot represents a milestone in our ongoing mission to solve the complexities and expense of same-day, last-mile delivery for the growing e-commerce market in a manner that is safe and environmentally friendly.”
The FedEx bot is being developed in collaboration with Deka Research and its founder Dean Kamen, inventor of many life-changing technologies, including the iBot Personal Mobility Device and the Segway.
Kamen says: “The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles.
“We built upon the power base of the iBot, an advanced, FDA-approved, mobility device for the disabled population with more than 10 million hours of reliable, real-world operation. By leveraging this base in an additional application, we hope that the iBot will become even more accessible to those who need it for their own mobility.”
The FedEx bot is designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses.
SameDay Bot features include pedestrian-safe technology from the iBot, plus advanced technology such as LiDAR and multiple cameras, allowing 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.
Proprietary technology makes the bot highly capable, allowing it to navigate unpaved surfaces, curbs, and even steps for an extraordinary door-to-door delivery experience.
FedEx plans to test the bot this summer in select markets, including Memphis, Tennessee, pending final city approvals.
Mayor Jim Strickland, City of Memphis, says: “We couldn’t be more excited that FedEx chose its hometown as one of the pilot cities for this revolutionary innovation.
“We look forward to working with FedEx to continue introducing technologies that will help improve the quality of life in our community.”
The initial test will involve deliveries between selected FedEx Office locations. FedEx Office currently offers a SameDay City service that operates in 32 markets and 1,900 cities using branded FedEx vehicles and uniformed FedEx employees. The FedEx bot will complement the FedEx SameDay City service.
Brian Philips, president and CEO of FedEx Office, says: “The FedEx SameDay Bot represents the next chapter in our long legacy of delivering innovation and outstanding service, supported by an already existing FedEx logistics ecosystem.
“We are excited to bring this technology to address new markets and better support our customers. The companies who have provided feedback on its potential use have been instrumental in ensuring we are looking toward the future of e-commerce.”
The FedEx bot will support retailers in several segments, and the first group of retail customers to view the prototype have recognized the value the technology can bring to their industries.
“We are thrilled to be working with the talented teams at FedEx and Deka on this revolutionary innovation,” said Bill Rhodes, Chairman, President and CEO, Customer Satisfaction, AutoZone. “When we saw the FedEx SameDay Bot in action, it confirmed to our team the many ways it can help us improve our service by offering reliable, highly efficient deliveries to our customers.”
Don Frieson, Lowe’s executive vice president, supply chain, says: “The convenience and capability of the FedEx Same Day Bot has the potential to greatly simplify and speed distribution for the full range of our customers.
“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.
“We look forward to exploring all the possibilities to enhance the service we provide our customers through this innovation.”
Nicolas Burquier, chief customer and operations officer, Pizza Hut, US, says: “Pizza Hut is constantly exploring new technology-based solutions to advance our delivery business as we look to redefine the modern pizza experience for our customers.
“The opportunity to work with a proven innovator in the delivery space like FedEx allows us the opportunity to leverage cutting-edge technology to further optimize our best-in-class delivery experience.”
John Mulligan, chief operating officer, Target, says: “We continue to invest in new technologies and capabilities that make Target the easiest place to shop – both now and in the future.
“We’re excited to be collaborating with FedEx to explore how autonomous robots could enhance delivery services and more, ensuring we continue to exceed our guests’ expectations for ease and convenience.”
Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, says: “At Walgreens, we’re on a journey to leverage the latest in innovative technologies to provide a differentiated pharmacy and health care experience, and delivery solutions that bring our services to our customers wherever they are and whenever they need them.
“With FedEx as a partner, Walgreens has become the fastest choice for next-day prescription delivery in the US, and we’re excited that through our growing relationship, the FedEx SameDay Bot is another way we can offer better service and greater convenience to our customers.”
The bot made its first public appearance during NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday, February 26.
FedEx says this prototype will be refined to meet safety standards and regulations, and the specific needs of customers.