Inside Logistics

Lowe’s testing FedEx delivery bots

Robot delivery has potential to help customers avoid stopping work to fetch parts and tools


April 30, 2019
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FedEx envisions its delivery bot fulfilling same-day urgent e-commerce orders. (Image: Lowe’s)

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe’s will help FedEx test its last-mile delivery bot this summer.

The FedEx SameDay Bot is an autonomous delivery device designed to help retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers.

With the bot, retailers will be able to accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day. FedEx is collaborating with numerous companies, including Lowe’s, AutoZone, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to  assess retailers’ autonomous delivery needs. On average, more than 60 per cent of merchants’ customers live within three miles of a store location, demonstrating the opportunity for on-demand, hyper-local delivery.

“We’re focused on serving our customers where, when and how they want to be served, and smooth, reliable, timely delivery is critical,” said Don Frieson, Lowe’s executive vice-president of supply chain.

“The convenience and capability the FedEx SameDay Bot is being designed to offer has the potential to simplify and speed distribution through same-day delivery from your neighborhood Lowe’s. We look forward to exploring possibilities to enhance the service we provide our customers through this innovation – and what this kind of support can mean for our associates.”

The FedEx bot is being developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp. and its founder Dean Kamen, inventor of many life-changing technologies, including the iBot Personal Mobility Device and the Segway.

“The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles,” Kamen said.

“We built upon the power base of the iBot, an advanced, FDA-approved, 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.”

The agility and capability of the FedEx SameDay Bot is  has the potential to help customers avoid interrupting work.

The FedEx bot is designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses. Bot features include pedestrian-safe technology from the iBot, plus advanced technology such as LiDAR and multiple cameras, allowing the zero-emission, battery-powered bot to be aware of its surroundings. Gyroscopic technology helps keep cargo level and still.

These features are coupled with machine-learning algorithms to detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path and allow the bot to follow road and safety rules. Proprietary technology makes the bot highly capable, allowing it to navigate unpaved surfaces, curbs, and even steps for an extraordinary door-to-door delivery experience.

While that agility can simplify access to a busy construction site, same-day, on-site delivery’s greatest value might be allowing contractors to continue working without costly interruptions and delays.

“Consider pros who could save time and money by never leaving the job site for the critical tools and supplies they need from Lowe’s,” Frieson said.

“Rising labour wages cost businesses every time a worker leaves to pick up supplies. Then consider the lost productivity from work that remained untouched while they are gone, and we believe professionals will quickly realize the savings of job site delivery.”