In all the movies about robots, there aren’t many about robots delivering packages. That may be for a reason — FedEx is the latest company to cease production of its robotic delivery service, Roxo, which sounds exactly like a name for a robot dog.
Resembling an emergency smart toaster on wheels, Roxo had the ability to careen around cars and pedestrians using a system of cameras and LIDAR sensors, and featured a set of adjustable wheels for potentially climbing curbs and stairs. It was tested — and appears to have failed those tests — in the US, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan as part of a program called DRIVE.
“Although robotics and automation are key pillars of our innovation strategy, Roxo did not meet necessary near-term value requirements for DRIVE,” said Sriram Krishnasam, chief transformation officer at FedEx.
“Although we are ending the research and development efforts, Roxo served a valuable purpose: to rapidly advance our understanding and use of robotic technology.”
The Roxo program was launched by FedEx in 2019 as part of a collaboration with DEKA, creators of the iBot electric wheelchair.
While Roxo moved autonomously, a human person was still required to walk behind it and monitor its progress, like someone waiting for their dog to poop. “You’re watching Roxo today,” they probably said back at the office.
The FedEx announcement follows similar news from Amazon concerning the scaling back of their own delivery robot program, Scout. That old line from Greek historian Herodotus — “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — appears not to apply to robot messengers.
Both Roxo and Scout are probably standing next to each other naked in a dark, cold room like in Westworld. So if you’re hesitant about your own robot package delivery program, feel free to shut it down.
Source: Robotics 24/7