The pizza chain will be helping FedEx test its new autonomous delivery robot.

By Mike Pomranz
February 28, 2019
Courtesy of FedEx

It sounds like a joke someone might have cracked back in the ‘80s: “Why don’t you just FedEx me a pizza?” But thanks to the marvels of modern technology, FedEx is preparing to join the pizza delivery game thanks to a new partnership with Pizza Hut. Don’t expect pies to be shipped overnight from Pizza Hut headquarters in Plano, Texas. Instead, FedEx’s will be delivering stuffed crust pizzas with its new autonomous local delivery robots — known as the FedEx Same Day Bot.

Admittedly, small autonomous delivery vehicles have been in the works for quite some time — including from big names like Amazon — but FedEx is one of the biggest names in delivery and having one of the world’s biggest pizza brands on board definitely helps get the word out. “The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation being developed to change the face of local delivery and help brands, like Pizza Hut, address the growing needs of their customers,” Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for FedEx, said in the announcement. “The FedEx bot looks to redefine delivery for this market in a manner that is cost-effective, safe and environmentally friendly.”

Okay, but what exactly is the FedEx SameDay Bot? The delivery giant explains that this approximately 4-foot-high vehicle is “is designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses,” with features that “include pedestrian-safe technology” as well as “advanced technology such as LiDAR and multiple cameras, allowing the zero-emission, battery-powered bot to be aware of its surroundings.” Furthermore, FedEx writes, “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.”

But don’t grab the Pizza Hut app and expect a FedEx bot to wheel up to your door later today. Real world tests of the bot aren’t slated to begin until this summer, and even then, it will only be happening “in select markets pending final city approvals.” Memphis, Tennessee, is the only city actually named. Additionally, Pizza Hut is only one of a number of brands, including other big companies like Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, who have signed up to help test the bot — and Pizza Hut specifically doesn’t have a timeline as to when their specific tests will begin.

So to put it another way, the future isn’t now, but the future is coming. Though, now that I think about it, that is technically always true.

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