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FedEx CIO reveals automation ambitions – robots, trucks and drones

FedEx’s Chief Information Officer, Rob Carter, has spoken about the automated technology set to make an appearance in the shipping giant’s near future. Carter is in charge of strategy for FedEx’s Express shipping service and office-and-home ground delivery service.
Talking with MIT Technology Review, Carter revealed that FedEx is the early stages of developing an Alexa app to enable users to organise deliveries hands-free, eyes-free and form-free, by giving a command such as, “Alexa, prepare a shipment.”
“You [will be able to] just talk your way through and [Alexa will] ask the right questions to make sure you’ve completed the work and then you can expect a truck to roll up to the front door of your office, pick up the shipments, and move them along,” he said.
According to Carter, FedEx is also researching ways to further automate the way it transports packages, and is working with start-up Peloton Technology, whose semi-autonomous platooning technology is set to be released in late 2017.
FedEx has partnered with several truck manufacturers that are developing autonomous trucking technology, such as Volvo and Daimler’s Freightliner division, and Carter told MIT Technology Review that he expects to see “significant implementations” of automated vehicles in the shipping industry in the next decade, though he did not state when FedEx might adopt semi- or fully autonomous trucks.
As for drone technology, Carter stated that due to the “limited capacity” of drones designed for delivery – most can carry only small weights, have short flight times and are subject to every-increasing use restrictions – it’s unlikely FedEx will be using them anytime soon. He believes that fixed-wing drones travelling between specific departure and receiving points would be more suited to the task, though he’s more interested in rolling robots to send deliveries than flying drones.

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