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FedEx unveils autonomous delivery robot, will test in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FedEx may be giving us a taste of the future with their latest technology: Robots delivering packages the same-day you place an order.

The bot will travel up to three miles from a business to its customer and then back. It’s built to follow traffic laws, avoid obstacles and go on rough surfaces, like curbs and steps.

Brian Phillips, president and CEO of FedEx Office, said the company believes the autonomous delivery device "will revolutionize the way last mile delivery, particularly in residential areas, will take place.”

He used examples like Autozone quickly delivering parts to a commercial business, or a pharmacy sending a swab kit to someone feeling sick to use and send back for testing.

“This is a new business for FedEx. These are scenarios you just can’t serve with a traditional van and driver.”

The technology will be tested in Memphis and other select markets beginning in late June or July.

That leaves some people like Sonya Hawes with concerns.

“Wow. That is crazy,” Hawes said. “You’ve got un-honest people out here that will go and take your stuff, but they can see a robot rolling down the street and go knock it in the head and find a way to get the package.”

FedEx says there’s a remote operator who can see the bot’s surroundings, take control and intervene, even talking through a speaker to people around it.

They say the bot’s height makes it easy to spot if you’re walking, biking or driving, and it has a screen that will give signals to show where it’s turning and what its intent is.

“It’s crazy. I don’t see how it’s going to work,” Aisha Williford said.

But others say they’re excited for the revolutionary technology to be here.

Companies reportedly looking into utilizing the technology include AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said ultimately, the new service will help improve the quality of life in Memphis.

“We couldn’t be more excited that FedEx chose its hometown as one of the pilot cities for this revolutionary innovation,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “We look forward to working with FedEx to continue introducing technologies that will help improve the quality of life in our community.”

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