American delivery company FedEx has developed an autonomous robotic delivery device to help retailers distribute same-day orders to their customers.
Designed to satisfy the ever-growing expectations of consumers, the SameDay Bot allows retailers to accept orders from nearby customers and send them by robot directly to the buyer's home or office that same day.
After discovering that, on average, more than 60 per cent of vendors' customers live within three miles of a store location, FedEx saw the opportunity to create an on-demand, hyper-local delivery service.
The robot can travel on pavements and along roadsides to safely deliver small-scale shipments straight from a warehouse or store to the customers' door, the so-called last-mile.
"The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers' rising expectations," explained Brie Carere, executive vice president of 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."
Developed in collaboration with DEKA Research & Development Corporation, the SameDay Bot is equipped with "pedestrian-safe technology" that uses multiple cameras and LiDAR remote sensing technology to detect its surroundings.
Accompanied by machine-learning algorithms, these safety features work to keep the robot away from obstacles, avoiding any collisions by plotting a safe path and ensuring the bot follows the rules of the road.
While FedEx is keeping its cards close to its chest by not yet disclosing exactly how the battery-powered bot works, it has revealed that it is powered by patented technology that allows it to travel across unpaved surfaces, curbs, and even steps for a literal "door-to-door" delivery experience.
"The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles," said DEKA founder Dean Kamen. "We built upon the power base of the iBot, an advanced, FDA-approved [the US food and drug administration], 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," he added.
A prototype of the SameDay Bot made its debut during US television network NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this week on 26 February.
FedEx plan to refine this model to meet safety standards and regulations, and the specific needs of customers, before testing the robot this Summer in selected cities, including Memphis, Tennessee, where it will undertake deliveries between different FedEx office locations.
"We couldn't be more excited that FedEx chose its hometown as one of the pilot cities for this revolutionary innovation," said City of Memphis mayor Jim Strickland.
"We look forward to working with FedEx to continue introducing technologies that will help improve the quality of life in our community," he continued.
Both delivery companies and automotive manufacturers are venturing into the world of autonomous robotic delivery for the last-mile transportation from local warehouses to the customer's door.
German manufacturer Continental's offering has been designed to resemble a dog, and travels close to its final destination in a driverless van