Robots: The Delivery Solution to Mobile Payments Ordered Goods?

March 4, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

For a while, it looked as though small drone aircraft would be the answer to the last mile delivery problem that’s been plaguing mobile payments—and pretty much all of online shopping in general—for years. With the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a holding pattern that seems to be going from now until the sun burns out—some reports suggest there’s easing afoot, but it’s unclear how that will ultimately go—many have started to look away from the multi-rotor drone and toward the small ground-bound robot instead.

Recently, FedEx made a huge step on this front with its unveiling of the SameDay Bot, a small robot that can help deliver packages from one point to another that same day. Right now, the SameDay City service currently runs in 32 separate markets and in 1,900 cities; word is that FedEx is already actively collaborating with a range of merchants—Lowe’s, AutoZone and Pizza Hut for starters—to bring the SameDay Bot into use as a way to complement the SameDay City concept.

Given reports that six out of 10 shoppers live within three miles of some of these brick-and-mortar outlets, the SameDay Bot could be a big deal. Amazon has been seen developing similar operations, and we all remember how students at George Mason University in Virginia can order food for delivery by robots on campus anyway.

This is certainly an excellent part of the overall landscape, and for short-range deliveries, such a system of small wheeled robots would likely do well in getting items from one place to another. In fact, that’s probably a better idea than using flying drones, especially in densely-populated urban areas. For areas with a lot of ground between the business and its customers, though, air drones are almost certainly better suited. Why send a parcel over the roads, with curves and turns and crossings, when “as the crow flies” is shorter, faster, and more efficient? With big enough front yards to land in—and a little caution around power lines—the end result is better overall.

Even potential job loss isn’t much an issue; delivery drivers can become drone pilots with a bit of retraining. And getting people the purchases made via mobile payments faster and easier is always worth considering.