FedEx Scraps Robot Delivery Program

October 19, 2022 Topic: Robots Region: Americas Blog Brand: Techland Tags: Autonomous RobotsRobotsAmazonDelivery DronesDelivery

FedEx Scraps Robot Delivery Program

In a move consistent with competitors like Amazon, FedEx has decided that it is not yet ready to introduce autonomous delivery robots at scale.

Robot delivery may have looked like the wave of the future not too long ago, but now one of the major companies that embraced it is backing away. 

Robots 24/7 reported last week that FedEx is shutting down its robot delivery service, built around “Roxo, the FedEx Sameday Bot.” The robot had been used for “last-mile” deliveries, and at launch had been described by FedEx as “an autonomous delivery Bot that is being designed as a game changer for same-day, last-mile delivery. An innovative design, rigorously tested, with safety at its core.”

However, things have apparently changed. 

“Although robotics and automation are key pillars of our innovation strategy, Roxo did not meet necessary near-term value requirements for DRIVE,” Sriram Krishnasam, chief transformation officer at FedEx, wrote in an email to employees. “Although we are ending the research and development efforts, Roxo served a valuable purpose: to rapidly advance our understanding and use of robotic technology.”

DRIVE is an internal program at FedEx. 

“We are immensely proud of our role in working with DEKA to advance this cutting-edge technology that has put it on the path to future implementation, and we remain committed to exploring last-mile innovations that align with our business strategy,” FedEx added. “The collaboration with DEKA has been outstanding, and we will continue to explore compelling opportunities arising from the technologies we have developed together.”

Amazon had announced earlier this month that it was scaling back its own robot delivery program, Scout, although it is not getting rid of it altogether, Techcrunch reported. Like the FedEx version, Amazon’s program launched in 2019. 

“During our limited field test for Scout, we worked to create a unique delivery experience, but learned through feedback that there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs,” Amazon said in a statement to the site. “As a result, we are ending our field tests and reorienting the program. We are working with employees during this transition, matching them to open roles that best fit their experience and skills.”

A new study was published earlier this week through the Knight Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Initiative, which is a venture of the Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, Cityfi, and four cities. It is titled “Piloting Sidewalk Delivery Robots in Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade County, Detroit, and San Jose.”

It reached several conclusions: “Events and demonstrations were the best ways to engage community members and onboard them into a new experience,” “Pilots should test with low-stakes deliveries,” “Partner selection—technology providers and local partner businesses—is crucial to success,” “There is value in city-level control while business models and technologies are maturing but not yet ready to scale,” and “A cohort model adds value and leverage.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.