Legacy West residents may soon find themselves sharing the sidewalk with robots. On Monday, FedEx Office President and CEO Brian Philips announced plans to begin field-testing an automated delivery vehicle between its corporate headquarters and the Legacy West FedEx Office store this July. If successful, these cyborg couriers may soon be a common sight throughout the city.
“The reason FedEx has invested in this technology is that there’s a segment of the market within three miles of every restaurant, every company and every retailer that goes underserved in the on-demand market,” Philips said.
Members of the Plano City Council and Economic Development Council along with representatives from Legacy West were on hand to see a brief demonstration of the new “SameDay Bot.” Its first delivery was a $10,000 check made out to Mayor Harry LaRosiliere’s summer internship program. The mayor, sporting purple FedEx logo socks for the occasion, said that autonomous vehicles were in line with his vision of a city at the forefront of business and technology.
“We are so excited that FedEx Office chose Plano as one of the locations to do testing,” Mayor LaRosiliere said. “We call ourselves the City of Excellence, but we’re also in the next phase of our timeline as the city of innovation.”
Frisco, Memphis and Manchester, New Hampshire were also chosen for the initial round of testing.
The SameDay bot travels at speeds of between 10-15 miles per hour. It’s been designed to travel on streets and sidewalks, with the ability to avoid obstacles and climb curbs and stairs. Users will be able program and track the device with a custom app. The design was based on the Deka iBot, a wheelchair initially designed for wounded veterans that can traverse obstacles and elevate the operator to a normal standing height.
“We’re very excited about the things that this device can do that a traditional van and driver are unable to do,” Philips said.
Each customer would have its own dedicated bot to use as needed for round-trip deliveries. Potential uses include pharmacies and clinics quickly relaying tests and medications between locations or a supply store sending tools and materials to contractors in the field. According to Philips, several large companies including Target, Walmart, Pizza Hut, Walgreens, Auto Zone and Lowes have already inquired about using the robot.
“We’ve created something very unique,” he said. “We think it’s perfect for the Plano market because it’s battery operated, it takes pressure off the roadways and it helps us serve Plano businesses.”FedEx Office >