Will FedEx’s robots help retailers solve the last-mile delivery challenge?
One of the biggest names in last-mile delivery is launching a pilot using robots to get products from select partner retailers to the customer’s door.
FedEx announced that it is planning to test home delivery robots with Walmart and Pizza Hut in some cities this summer, according to Reuters. The shipping company hopes to determine if there is enough value in the concept to launch larger scale robot delivery as part of its SameDay service, currently available in around 1,900 cities.
The robots FedEx plans to test look like coolers on wheels and can reach a top speed of 10 miles per hour. The initial tests, once the shipping company gets approval from test cities, will occur between FedEx store locations. The robots are being created in partnership with DEKA Development & Research Corp, a tech company founded by the inventor of the Segway.
FedEx is announcing the partnership at a time when e-commerce customers are demanding ever quicker delivery and when startups, brands, retailers and delivery services have all been looking for a way to streamline the last mile of delivery with autonomous vehicles.
In fact, San Francisco, a hot spot for robotics startups, has seen years of back and forth legislation regarding the conditions under which delivery robot prototypes should be allowed to roll on city streets.
Comparably slow, small delivery robots like the one FedEx plans to test are not the only kind of driverless delivery vehicle being piloted in the industry.
Last year, for instance, Kroger announced that it would a run a grocery delivery pilot using driverless cars, making it the largest supermarket to launch such an initiative.
And FedEx’s direct competitor, UPS, as well as tech titans Amazon and Google have all been devoting resources and research to last-mile delivery via flying drone.
But with all forms of autonomous vehicles, concerns continue with regard to consumer privacy and the personal safety of citizens.
- FedEx partners with Walmart, Pizza Hut to test last-mile delivery robot – Reuters
- San Francisco limits robots on its sidewalks – RetailWire
- Can UPS fly past Amazon in drone delivery? – RetailWire
- Kroger to delivery groceries using driverless cars – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will FedEx successfully push robot delivery forward in a way that other players haven’t because of the scale if its operations? Is it worthwhile for shippers to pursue autonomous last-mile solutions?