Logistics giant FedEx is reportedly partnering with Walmart, Target, and Pizza Hut to test out a new “last-mile” delivery robot system.
Reuters reports that FedEx plans to test its new SameDay delivery bot this summer in some cities across the U.S., including Memphis, Tennesse. FedEx will be partnering with major brands such as Walmart, Target and Pizza Hut as part of the delivery tests. Retailers have been working on creating automated delivery services for some time to deliver gadgets, groceries and even cups of coffee to consumers.
FedEx is partnering with DEKA Development & Research Corp to develop its robot delivery system; DEKA’s founder Dean Kamen famously invented the Segway standing scooter and the iBot stair-climbing wheelchair. FedEx stated that it believes robots could easily become part of its SameDay delivery service which operates in 1,900 cities worldwide.
The delivery project still requires approval from cities it operates in before it can go ahead; FedEx’s hometown of Memphis will have to allow the project to take place there where FedEx will begin first tests of the robot delivery system by having the machines deliver items between FedEx office stores. Approximately 60 percent of merchant’s customers live within three miles from a FedEx store location, making the success of these robots more likely.
Even if the robots can only finish the last mile of the delivery, this could be of great benefit to many merchants as the last mile often accounts for 50 percent or more of the total package delivery costs. Services such as Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub have built their entire business model around taking commissions as high as 30 percent from merchants to deliver their items.
Startups such as Starship Technologies, which raised more than $40 million in venture funding, are attempting to capitalize on this issue. The San Francisco startup began their robot delivery project last year, and later teamed up with the French food services firm Sodexo to deliver Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Blaze Pizza orders to the 40,000 college students at George Mason University’s Fairfax, Virginia.