Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

FedEx develops same-day delivery autonomous robot

Steve Rogerson
March 6, 2019

FedEx has developed an autonomous delivery robot to help retailers make same-day and last-kilometre deliveries to their customers. Early testers of the service include Pizza Hut, Target and Walmart.
With the FedEx SameDay 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 per cent of merchants’ customers live within 5km of a store, 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 for FedEx. “The bot represents a milestone in our on-going mission to solve the complexities and expense of same-day, last-mile delivery for the growing ecommerce market in a manner that is safe and environmentally friendly.”
The bot is being developed in collaboration with Deka Development & Research 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 ten 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 bot is designed to travel on pavements and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses. Features include pedestrian-safe technology from the iBot, plus 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 lets it navigate unpaved surfaces, kerbs and steps.
FedEx plans to test the bot this summer in select markets, including Memphis, pending final city approvals.
“We couldn’t be more excited that FedEx chose its hometown as one of the pilot cities for this revolutionary innovation,” said Memphis mayor Jim Strickland. “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 offices. FedEx offers a same-day city service that operates in 32 markets and 1900 cities using branded FedEx vehicles and uniformed employees. The bot will complement this service.
“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, 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 towards the future of ecommerce.”
The bot will support retailers in several segments, and the first group of retail customers to view the prototype have recognised 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, CEO at 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, added: “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.”
And Nicolas Burquier, chief customer and operations officer for Pizza Hut in the USA, said: “Pizza Hut is constantly exploring new technology 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 optimise our best-in-class delivery experience.”
John Mulligan, chief operating officer for Target, said:  “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.”
And Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, added: “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 USA, 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.”