Tests on the functions and ability of a robot which would take care of home deliveries is planned to be conducted by FedEx Corp this summer with a wide range of companies including the likes of Walmart Inc and Pizza Hut.
Robots, drones and self-driving cars are being extensively used by a number of industries such as shippers, retailers and restaurants with the aim of taking down the high costs of delivering gadgets, groceries and even cups of coffee with the use of automation particularly in the so called ‘last mile’ to the doorsteps of consumers.
FedEx is partnering for the tests with DEKA Development & Research Corp. The Segway stand-up scooter and iBot stair-climbing wheelchair were invented by the founder of the latter company. According to FedEx, it plans to use robots for last mile delivery in its SameDay service which it offers in more than 1,900 cities throughout the world.
The robots look like coolers on wheels and are battery powered. And as the robots move about on sidewalks and roadways at a top speed of 10 miles (16 km) per hour, they are navigated by cameras and software to detect and avoid obstacles.
The project must win approval in test cities, including the shipper’s hometown of Memphis, and the first deliveries will be between FedEx office stores.
The company said that over 60 per cent of its customers stay within a distance of three miles from a store location on the average. In order to determine whether making use of autonomous delivery could be a source of fast and cheap deliveries, FedEx is partnering with a number of companies for the tests which includes AutoZone Inc and Target Corp, the company said.
50 percent or more of total package delivery costs is accounted for by the company’s efforts to overcome the “last mile” to reach the destinations of customers. Commission of 10-30 percent per order is paid to third-party delivery companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub by restaurants.
Projects aimed at lowering such last mile costs and for overcoming regulatory hurdles are witnessing companies making investments worth millions of dollars. Many of the states in the United States however demand the presence of humans as emergency backup drivers along with the autonomous vehicles for safety reasons.
Robots to deliver packages in the San Francisco Bay Area were deployed by Starship Technologies last year. The company had raised more than $40 million in venture funding. The company struck partnership with the French food service company Sodexo for delivery of products from companies like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Blaze Pizza to about 40,000 students residing at George Mason University’s Fairfax, Virginia, campus. That service costs $1.99 per order.
Its own delivery robot dubbed “Scout” is being tested by Amazon
While not conducting tests with robots, FedEx rival United Parcel Service Inc is however experimenting with drone for deliveries of packages.
(Adapted from NDTV.com)