FedEx announces autonomous delivery agreement as bots brave the logistical last mile

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Typically, humans have manually delivered parcels to other humans. However, companies are using myriad craft from drones to autonomous vehicles to revolutionize supply chains.

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Image: FedEx

From vaccine delivery drones to robotic pizza delivery, companies are using myriad craft to augment traditional logistics. On Tuesday, FedEx announced a deal with autonomous vehicles company, Nuro, to test these delivery capabilities in the U.S.

"FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy," said Rebecca Yeung, vice president of advanced technology and innovation at FedEx, in a press release. "We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations."

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In a release about the agreement, FedEx said the collaboration between the two companies launched earlier this spring as part of a Houston-based pilot program that would provide the company with the "opportunity to explore various use cases for on-road autonomous vehicle logistics." Other listed use-cases include "appointment-based" deliveries and those with multiple stops.

During the coronavirus pandemic, deliveries boomed as people opted to stay home and order online amid public safety measures. FedEx said that "exponential" e-commerce growth has "accelerated the demand for reliable, autonomous solutions throughout all stages of the supply chain."

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For "nearly five years," the release said, Nuro has tested and developed these autonomous driving capabilities such as "on-road deployment in multiple cities" with noted Nuro partnerships including "grocery, restaurant, and pharmacy verticals."

"Working with FedEx—the global leader in logistics—is an incredible opportunity to rethink every aspect of local delivery. This multi-year commitment will allow us to truly collaborate and bring Nuro's powerful technology to more people in new ways, and eventually reach large-scale deployment," said Cosimo Leipold, Nuro's head of partnerships, in a press release.

"Our collaboration will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener."

Delivery bots descend on Houston

Interestingly, FedEx isn't the only company Nuro is partnering with to robotically deliver products in the Houston area. As we reported in April, Nuro and Domino's launched an autonomous pizza delivery program in Bayou City that could usher in the dawn of a new pizza era.

Select customers ordering from the participating location will prepay for orders online and opt to have the pizza delivered via the R2 vehicle, Domino's said in a press release, adding that dispatched text alerts will provide R2 location updates and give customers a unique pin to enter on the bot's touchscreen upon arrival. This code will then prompt the vehicle's doors to open, "revealing the customer's hot Domino's order."

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