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09/22/2021

FedEx competing with Amazon in autonomous cargo delivery

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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FedEx truck
FedEx will test self-driving vehicles for linehaul trucking operations.

FedEx Corp. will pilot self-driving vehicles for linehaul trucking operations.

The parcel delivery giant is kicking off a collaboration with autonomous technology developer Aurora and medium-and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer PACCAR to test Aurora’s autonomous driving technology in PACCAR autonomous vehicle platform (AVP)-equipped trucks within FedEx linehaul trucking operations that move cargo long-distance

This is an industry-first three-way collaboration between a logistics provider, autonomous technology developer, and a truck manufacturer. The pilot begins Wednesday, Sep. 22, and will run along FedEx’s Dallas-Houston parcel lanes, completing the nearly 500-mile round trip route multiple times each week.

The trucks will operate autonomously, with a backup driver for additional safety. Earlier in 2021, Aurora and PACCAR announced a strategic partnership to build and deploy autonomous trucks at scale.

In June, FedEx entered a multi-year, multi-phase agreement to test Nuro autonomous delivery vehicles for last-mile delivery of parcels to customers within its operations.  The collaboration launched in April 2021 with a pilot program across the Houston area. The Nuro partnership was another step in FedEx actively competing with Amazon in everything from electric delivery vehicles to providing hosted e-commerce services.

A Morgan Stanley analyst predicted FedEx would eventually have to increase its autonomous delivery presence when Amazon purchased autonomous vehicle manufacturer Zoox in June 2020. Now, FedEx is competing with Amazon’s use of Embark self-driving trucks to haul some cargo on the I-10 interstate highway that runs from California to Georgia, as reported by CNBC.

In addition, Walmart has piloted self-driving vehicles in its supply chain from Gatik, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup specializing in providing autonomous vehicles for B2B short-haul logistics. Walmart tested autonomous vehicles in moving customer orders on a two-mile route in Bentonville, Ark., where the company is headquartered, between two of its stores.

Walmart aimed to learn more about the logistics of adding autonomous vehicles into its online grocery ecosystem, operation process changes, and more possible opportunities to incorporate self-driving technology.

“FedEx was built on innovation, and we always anticipate what’s next to be future-ready,” said Rebecca Yeung, VP, advanced technology and innovation, FedEx Corp. “This is an exciting, industry-first collaboration that will work toward enhancing the logistics industry through safer, more efficient transportation of goods and we are pleased to collaborate with other industry leaders – Aurora and PACCAR – on this endeavor.”

“As leaders in our respective fields, we have critical and unique perspectives on how to develop and deploy safe, self-driving truck solutions for this industry,” said Sterling Anderson, chief product officer, Aurora. “This collaboration allows for the creation of a cohesive and integrated product and service. We believe there is no other credible way to deliver this complex and valuable technology at scale.”

“Deepening our relationship with Aurora and FedEx to optimize one of our most important customer networks on PACCAR AVP equipped trucks is a significant and special milestone to deliver this technology at scale,” said John Rich, PACCAR CTO.