FedEx is getting a little help from robots this summer. CNBC reports that the logistics giant plans to start testing a robot to handle home deliveries for partners ranging from Walmart to Pizza Hut.
Partnering with FedEx for this pilot is DEKA Development & Research, whose founder Dean Kamen is also the inventor of the Segway stand-up scooter and iBot stair-climbing wheelchair. According to the outlet, FedEx has indicated the possibility of these robots becoming part of its SameDay service that is active in 1,900 global cities.
Resembling coolers on wheels, these battery-powered robots navigate the world around them using cameras and software to steer of obstacles, with their speed capped at 10 miles (16 km) per hour.
Test cities such as FedEx’s hometown of Memphis must first sign off on this project and initially deliveries will be limited to those between FedEx office stores.
“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 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, in a press 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.”
More than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location, on average, says CNBC. Partners such as AutoZone and Target are working with FedEx to figure out whether last mile, autonomous deliveries are a fit.
Unlocking the key to last-mile deliveries is of keen interest to investors and companies because this final stretch accounts for 50 percent or more of total package delivery costs, according to the outlet.