The Domino's announcement came on the heels of Yum Brands Inc.'s YUM -0.27% Pizza Hut joining sides with Toyota Motor Corp. TM 0.95% in a similar robot-car pact. The partnerships were touted by car companies looking for any edge in the development of driverless vehicles that could transform the way people get around and take deliveries in cities around the world. For the pizza companies, they're a way to keep up with technology that could make deliveries cheaper and more efficient, potential benefits that have caught the attention of companies in a range of businesses. Most visions of driverless cars have highlighted robot taxis. But many experts are starting to see around-town deliveries as an especially promising arena for driverless cars, and it may even develop sooner than robot taxis.
FedEx and Nuro are teaming up to test autonomous delivery vehicles. The companies signed a multi-year, multi-phase agreement to pilot Nuro's autonomous delivery vehicles in the Houston area. The pilot, which will start in April 2021, marks Nuro's expansion into parcel logistics and allows FedEx to explore various use cases for on-road autonomous vehicle logistics, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries. Tackling the challenges of last-mile delivery has been a priority for FedEx and other logistics companies for years. These challenges have only grown with the rapid growth of e-commerce combined with the ongoing labor shortages across the logistics sector.
Pandemic pizza was definitely a thing. U.S. consumers forked out a record-breaking $14 billion to have pizza delivered to their doors in 2020, and nearly half of that total was spent with just one brand: Domino's. "Domino's is the home of pizza delivery," said Dennis Maloney, Domino's chief innovation officer. "Delivery is at the core of who we are, so it's very important for us to lead when it comes to the consumer experience of delivery." The R2X (now known as R2) deftly avoids potholes, falling trees and traffic jams caused by The Noid -- a character created by Domino's in the 1980s to symbolize the difficulties of delivering a pizza in 30 minutes or less.
FedEx is expanding its robotics testing to include one of the bigger names in autonomous delivery. The company has struck a multi-year deal with Nuro to test its self-driving delivery vehicles, including for "last-mile" deliveries. The team-up started this April with a Houston-area pilot, but that's likely to expand when Nuro characterized this as a pledge to use driverless vehicles on a "large-scale." This is a big move for Nuro. For FedEx, this could help it manage capacity, tackle less-than-ideal routes and cut costs (which, let's be honest, could involve job cuts). It's also a competitive play -- rivals like UPS are already testing self-driving trucks, and this could help it keep up as the courier business becomes increasingly automated.
FedEx is rolling into autonomous delivery, and soon. The company will do a trial run of the SameDay Bot, a robot for same-day and last-minute deliveries, in selected cities this summer, it said Wednesday. SameDay Bot can travel on sidewalks and roadsides to bring you smaller items, and it's based on the technology used in the iBot mobility device. It also uses multiple cameras and lidar sensing to avoid obstacles and negotiate various surfaces. "The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers' rising expectations," said Brie Carere, FedEx's executive vice president and marketing and communications boss, in the release.