Walmart, Target and Walgreens are among a group of retailers working with FedEx Corp. to test a robot for last-mile delivery of online orders.
Called the FedEx SameDay Bot, the wheeled, shoulder-high autonomous delivery device will enable retailers to accept small-shipment orders from nearby customers and bring the items directly to their homes or businesses on the same day, FedEx said Wednesday.
There’s a growing need for solutions to support on-demand, hyper-local delivery, FedEx noted. The Memphis, Tenn.-based company reported that, on average, more than 60% of retailers’ customers live within three miles of a store.
FedEx plans to pilot the SameDay Bot this summer in select markets, including Memphis, pending final city approvals. The company said that along with Walmart, Target and Walgreens it’s collaborating with merchants such as Pizza Hut, Lowe’s and AutoZone to gauge their autonomous delivery needs.
“The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers’ rising expectations,” Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx said in a statement. “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.”
Using artificial intelligence and an array of sensors and cameras, the FedEx SameDay Bot — which looks like a cooler on wheels — is designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides to deliver small orders to homes and businesses. Pedestrian-safe technology from the iBot Personal Mobility Device plus advanced technology such as LiDAR and multiple cameras allow the bot to be aware of its surroundings. In addition, machine-learning algorithms help the unit detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path and follow road and safety rules.
An intelligent dual-wheel system enables the zero-emission, battery-powered bot to navigate rough or uneven terrain, including unpaved surfaces, curbs, inclines and steps for door-to-door delivery. A screen on the device indicates its movement. When the bot reaches its destination, its cabinet automatically rises up and opens its doors so customers can retrieve their items, which can include food or nonfood products.