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FedEx SameDay Bot Prototype Targets Last-Mile Retail Delivery Opportunities

FedEx unveiled a prototype of what it’s calling the SameDay Bot, signaling its ambition to capture retailers’ demand for speedy last-mile solutions amid strong growth in online shopping.

The logistics provider will begin testing the autonomous bot this summer in its headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., and is working with retail partners Target, Walgreens, Pizza Hut, Lowe’s, Walmart and AutoZone to further refine the prototype based on its specific needs.

FedEx said the zero-emission SameDay Bot can manage a 100 lb. payload and travel up to 8 miles at a speed of 10 miles per hour on a single two-hour charge, though it’s “exploring multiple options for the most efficient charging.” Customers access their packages inside the SameDay Bot via a code delivered to their mobile device or app.

The delivery company worked with DEKA Development & Research Corp., founded by Segway creator Dean Kamen, to develop the SameDay Bot’s power base, which is related to the one used in DEKA’s iBot personal mobility device.

To safely traverse roadways and sidewalks, the SameDay Bot features many of the capabilities common in autonomous delivery vehicles today. Numerous cameras, LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) technology, and algorithms based on machine learning guide the bot around obstacles and pedestrians. The bot runs on four larger wheels and uses two smaller ones when needed, what FedEx calls an “intelligent wheel system.” FedEx said the autonomous bot employs “proprietary technology” to successfully tackle curbs, porch stairs and other challenging terrain.

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CMO and chief communications officer Brie Carere described the SameDay Bot as a solution poised to “change the face of local delivery” while aiding retailers in their quest to meet the needs of demanding customers. “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,” Carere added. More than 60 percent of most retailers’ customers live within a three-mile radius of a store location, Fedex said.

FedEx is working to secure municipal approval for real-world testing beyond Memphis. It’ll carry out the first trials between some of its own FedEx Office facilities.

“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 FedEx Office CEO Brian Philips. “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.”