- FedEx developed an autonomous battery-powered delivery robot to facilitate same-day last-mile deliveries, the company announced Wednesday. The FedEx SameDay Bot travels on sidewalks and along roadsides to deliver small shipments to consumers.
- The robot comes equipped with LiDAR, cameras and machine learning to help it avoid obstacles in its path. "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 said.
- FedEx plans to test the robot this summer in "select markets," including Memphis, Tennessee. Retail partners include AutoZone, Lowe's, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.
FedEx is well known for its B2B deliveries, but the unveiling of its last-mile delivery bot shows the value FedEx sees in further expanding its B2C capabilities.
"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," FedEx said in a press release.
In another recent move to capitalize on the last-mile market, FedEx announced a partnership with Rent the Runway to deliver afternoon orders by mid-afternoon the following day through the 3PL's "extra hours" service.
FedEx also partnered with Walgreens on next-day prescription deliveries and piloted a home delivery service for bulky goods.
The SameDay Bot is relatively small (not to mention adorable) and won't deliver furniture or appliances, but it does tick a lot the boxes for last-mile deliveries: battery-powered means zero emissions, ability to deliver same-day, and doesn't require a driver.
Sustainability in the last-mile has evolved a focal point for many logistics providers. "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," Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx, said in a press release.
FedEx's fleet contains more than 2,000 electric vehicles, which not only carry environmental benefits but also result in long-term cost savings for the company. UPS also focuses on last-mile sustainability through the use of electric fleets and route optimizations that save fuel miles and time.
Development and testing of autonomous delivery bots has accelerated, but the robots often face challenges navigating less than utopian environments, such as an obstacle on the sidewalk or an unpaved service.
"The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles," said Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Development & Research Corps, which developed the robot with FedEx. "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."
Technology in the robot enables it to navigate curbs and steps, according to Kamen. Testing later this year will reveal if anything trips up the bot.