FedEx unveils its autonomous delivery robot; plans to test it this summer



On Wednesday, Feb. 27, FedEx Corp. unveiled its FedEx SameDay Bot, which is an autonomous delivery robot designed to help retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers.

According to FedEx, retailers will be able to accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day using the robot.

​FedEx notes that on average, more than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location, which shows the potential for on-demand, hyper-local delivery. With this in mind, FedEx has also announced that it is partnering with several companies including AutoZone, Pizza Hut, and Target to help assess retailers’ 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,” explains Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx.

“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.” 

DEKA Development & Research Corp. is helping develop the FedEx bot. The company was founded by Dean Kamen, who has invented technologies such as the iBot Personal Mobility Device and the Segway.

“The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles,” Kamen says.

“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. 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.” 

Designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides, the FedEx bot will safely deliver smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses. The bot is equipped with pedestrian-safe technology from the iBot, as well as LiDAR and multiple cameras that allow it to be aware of its surroundings.

These features, along with machine-learning algorithms, allow the bot to detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path and allow the bot to follow road and safety rules.

Thanks to proprietary technology, the bot can also navigate unpaved surfaces, curbs, and even steps for an “extraordinary door-to-door delivery experience,” FedEx says.

This summer, FedEx plans to test the bot in select markets, including Memphis where it is headquartered, 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,” says Mayor Jim Strickland, City of Memphis.

“We look forward to working with FedEx to continue introducing technologies that will help improve the quality of life in our community.” 

During the initial tests, deliveries will take place between selected FedEx Office locations. FedEx Office currently offers a SameDay City service that operates in 32 markets and 1,900 cities using branded FedEx vehicles and uniformed FedEx employees. This service will be complemented by the FedEx bot.

“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,” says Brian Philips, president and 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 toward the future of e-commerce.”