Retail has upped its stake in the battle of the nation’s shipping giants.
FedEx Corp. announced today a partnership with big-box chains Walmart and Target, among other companies, to test robots tasked with delivering packages to customers within the same day.
Dubbed the SameDay Bot, the so-called “last-mile” autonomous device would transport products directly to shoppers’ homes or businesses, allowing them to take advantage of on-demand and hyperlocal delivery. (More than 60 percent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location, according to FedEx.) The courier service has also teamed up with AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut and Walgreens.
“The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers’ rising expectations,” said Brie Carere, EVP and chief marketing and communications officer at 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.”
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The battery-powered bots, with their wheels and coolerlike appearance, are equipped with multiple cameras and sensor technology that help them detect and avoid obstacles, as well as navigate unpaved ground and even steps. After a prototype made its first public appearance last night in NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” the machines will be refined to meet safety standards and regulations, and then debut through a test run in select markets, including FedEx’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn.
Walmart and Target’s move pits the retailers even further against e-tail behemoth Amazon, which has already introduced its own delivery robot called Scout. The fully electric system, developed in the retailer’s Seattle lab, was taken on a field test in January across Snohomish County, Washington. Although FedEx competitor UPS is not experimenting with robots, it has also begun trying out drone deliveries.
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