FedEx, Amazon Rethink Last-Mile Autonomous Robot Deliveries

FedEx is shutting down its robot delivery program, while Amazon says it is scaling back on development.

October 19, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—FedEx is halting the development of its last-mile robot called Roxo to focus on more “nearer-term opportunities,” reports The Verge.

In 2019, FedEx announced it was developing an autonomous delivery device designed to help retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers. The company was collaborating with DEKA Development & Research Corp. on Roxo.

The robot featured pedestrian-safe technology from the iBot, as well as advanced technology such as LiDAR and multiple cameras, allowing the bot to be aware of its surroundings. These features were coupled with machine-learning algorithms to detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path and allow the bot to follow road and safety rules.

It traveled at a top speed of 10 mph and could hold up to 100 pounds, reports The Verge. There were human operators that monitored the robot and could steer it manually if needed. Roxo was trialed in the U.S., the United Arab Emirates and Japan, making deliveries three to five miles away from local delivery centers. FedEx had said 2021 would be its “most advanced testing period yet” for the robot.

“Although robotics and automation are key pillars of our innovation strategy, Roxo did not meet necessary near-term value requirements for DRIVE,” wrote FedEx Chief Transformation Officer Sriram Krishnasam, according to internal emails obtained by Robotics 24/7, which first reported the news. “Although we are ending the research and development efforts, Roxo served a valuable purpose: to rapidly advance our understanding and use of robotic technology.”

Earlier this month, Amazon also announced it was scaling back the development of its autonomous robot, Scout, reports Bloomberg. The e-commerce giant said it is stopping home delivery testing of the robot, which was launched three years ago.

“During our Scout limited field test, 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 spokesperson Alisa Carroll told Bloomberg. “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.”

Like FedEx, Amazon also started testing Scout in 2019, starting in Seattle and then expanded to Southern California, Georgia and Tennessee. Scout was a cooler-sized bot that was designed to make deliveries directly to homes.