The tech industry’s perennial fantasy of replacing delivery workers with cutesy robots hasn’t quite panned out yet, but that didn’t stop FedEx from coming out with its own autonomous delivery machine and plopping one on a busy Manhattan sidewalk last week. The robot’s New York City debut was just a marketing stunt, but it caught the attention of city officials, who leaped at the chance to tell FedEx to screw off.
FedEx’s autonomous delivery robot was spotted near SoHo late last week as part of a press event to promote American Express’s “Small Business Saturday” campaign. The robot, which is named Roxo, only drew modest attention from passersby and press. (It’s New York City, after all.) But over the course of a couple days, FedEx landed itself a cease-and-desist order from the New York Department of Transportation, TechCrunch reports, as well as a threat from Mayor Bill de Blasio to “send them packing” if the city ever catches the robots in action without a special permit.
First of all, @FedEx, never get a robot to do a New Yorker’s job. We have the finest workers in the world.
Second of all, we didn’t grant permission for these to clog up our streets. If we see ANY of these bots we’ll send them packing. https://t.co/XxJIrIW9vr
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 23, 2019
According to TechCrunch, FedEx is not actually testing the robots in New York, but the company says it has piloted them in Memphis, as well as Manchester, New Hampshire, and two Texas cities, Plano and Frisco. When it first announced the project last February, FedEx said it would work with companies like Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart to “assess” their “autonomous delivery needs.”