The future is knocking: FedEx unveils autonomous delivery robot

The future is knocking: FedEx unveils autonomous delivery robot article image

Parcel deliveries are set to enter an exciting new era with the arrival of autonomous delivery bots.

To improve customer service, global logistics giants like FedEx are working on smarter ways to deliver packages.

In the US, FedEx recently unveiled the SameDay Bot – a cutting edge autonomous delivery device designed to help retailers make same-day and last-kilometre deliveries to its customers.

With the bot, retailers can accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day.

FedEx will trial the new technology in collaboration with companies such as AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to help assess retailers’ autonomous delivery needs.

The companies will use the robot to support existing delivery staff to help improve efficiency of the delivery process.

Initial tests of the FedEx SameDay Bot (not necessarily for pizza) will involve deliveries between selected FedEx Office locations, the company said.

FedEx Office currently offers a SameDay City service in 32 markets and 1,900 cities, using branded FedEx vehicles and uniformed FedEx employees. The FedEx robot would complement the FedEx SameDay City service, it said.

FedEx SameDay Bot from FedEx on Vimeo.

Using artificial intelligence and an array of sensors, the FedEx SameDay Bot can safely navigate to its destination and to make specific deliveries.

An innovative compartment allows the FedEx SameDay Bot to carry all kinds of cargo, even hot or cold items, making deliveries flexible and convenient.

And an intelligent wheel system is designed to set the FedEx SameDay Bot apart, allowing it to traverse various kinds of terrain.

On average, more than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within 5km of a store location, demonstrating the opportunity for on-demand, hyper-local delivery.

“The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers’ rising expectations,” said Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx.

“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.”

Unique capabilities

The FedEx bot is being developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp. and its founder Dean Kamen, inventor of many life-changing technologies, including the iBot Personal Mobility Device and the Segway®.

“The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles,” Kamen said.

“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 footpaths and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses.

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.

Navigating unpaved surfaces

Proprietary technology makes the bot highly capable, allowing it to navigate unpaved surfaces, curbs, and even steps.hero-convenience

FedEx plans to test the bot in the US summer in select markets, including Memphis, Tennessee, pending final city approvals.

The initial test will involve deliveries between selected FedEx Office locations.

“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,” said Brian Philips, President and CEO of FedEx Office.

“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 bot made its first public appearance during NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last month.

FedEx says this prototype will be refined to meet safety standards and regulations, and the specific needs of customers.

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