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FedEX to Pitch Autonomous Delivery Pilot in Manchester, N.H.

While airborne drone deliveries are getting most of the headlines these days, FedEx believes it has an option for same-day ground service that’s ready to go.

by Paul Feely, The New Hampshire Union Leader / April 16, 2019

(TNS) — A special guest is expected to roll into City Hall Tuesday night, as a FedEx SameDay Bot is slated to make an appearance at a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, as part of a presentation on a bot-testing pilot program set to roll out in Manchester this summer.

The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 7:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the third floor of City Hall. City officials have not yet approved the Bot.

FedEx Corp. envisions using the box-shaped robots for deliveries in the not-too-distant future.

The courier is ready to begin testing a 4-foot, 2-inch tall delivery robot in Memphis, Tenn., Plano, Texas, and one other yet-to-be-revealed location as early as this summer. The battery-powered bot travels at 10 miles an hour, has a range of 8 miles and can navigate streets, sidewalks, curbs, potholes, dodge pedestrians and even take the steps up to a home’s front door.

A spokesman with FedEx Corp. confirmed Monday the robot’s appearance is part of a presentation to city officials detailing a proposed SameDay Bot delivery pilot program.

A FedEx SameDay Bot attended a meeting of the Memphis City Council in March — where it delivered a parcel to elected officials — to announce beta road testing in that city would begin this summer. The second location where road testing is scheduled to roll out — Plano, Texas — happens to be where FedEx Office is headquartered.

FedEx developed its mobile robot with the help of DEKA Research & Development Corp., the group founded by Manchester inventor Dean Kamen — which helped the Queen City land the honor of being the third location for a pilot program.

The platform for the delivery device is Deka’s iBot, a motorized wheelchair that is capable of climbing stairs and has more than 10 million miles of operation by users.

While airborne drone deliveries are getting most of the headlines these days, FedEx believes it has an option for same-day ground service that’s ready to go. Six major retailers, including Walmart, Target, Walgreens and Lowe’s, have signed on to try out the new bots.

The FedEx robot will be able to carry packages as heavy as 100 pounds and calculate the optimal route to a delivery destination. It’s equipped with sensors and cameras to help it find its way and avoid obstacles. The robot will signal to pedestrians, cyclists or motorists when it’s turning or stopping. If needed, it can even talk to people it encounters via speakers operated by a FedEx employee monitoring the robots remotely.

The device weighs about 200 pounds and can run two hours on a single charge.

Once the robot arrives at a home or business, the person receiving the package would use a code sent to their mobile device to open the robot’s compartment. The automated vehicle would be able to pick up merchandise for return as well.

©2019 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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