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FedEx and Nuro are teaming up to test autonomous delivery vehicles. The companies signed a multi-year, multi-phase agreement to pilot Nuro’s autonomous delivery vehicles in the Houston area. The pilot, which will start in April 2021, marks Nuro’s expansion into parcel logistics and allows FedEx to explore various use cases for on-road autonomous vehicle logistics, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries.
Tackling the challenges of last-mile delivery has been a priority for FedEx and other logistics companies for years. These challenges have only grown with the rapid growth of e-commerce combined with the ongoing labor shortages across the logistics sector. This pilot is the latest addition to FedEx’s growing autonomous vehicle portfolio, including Roxo, the FedEx SameDay Bot. Roxo is an all-electric, autonomous delivery robot designed to provide same-day, point-to-point, local on-demand delivery services
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, vice president, advanced technology and innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
Nuro has been developing and testing its self-driving technology for nearly five years, including on-road deployment in multiple cities and industry-first regulatory approvals. The company has established partnerships with leaders in grocery, restaurant, and pharmacy verticals. In April 2021, Nuro partnered with Domino‘s for autonomous pizza delivery in Houston. Nuro and Domino’s first announced a partnership in Houston in 2019, so it has been mapping the area for some time now. That same year, Nuro also announced deals with Kroger in Houston and Phoenix.
“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. “Our collaboration will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener.”
FedEx uses a variety of robots for its logistics operations. In 2020, for example, it partnered with PlusOne Robotics to deploy four pick-and-place robots in the small-package sorting area of FedEx’s Memphis Hub. The robots work two 4-hour shifts – a day sort and a night sort. Each robot sorts anywhere from 1000-1400 packages per hour depending on package mix. In 2021, FedEx plans to expand the number of robots not only in Memphis, but other operations in its network.
Aaron Prather, senior advisor for technology, research, and planning at FedEx, joined The Robot Report Podcast in November 2020 to discuss the state of FedEx’s robotics systems. He also gave advice to robotics startups trying to work with FedEx and efforts to develop autonomous mobile robot standards. You can listen to the interview below, starting at the 2:56 mark.