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FedEx Expands Electric Cart Routes in New York City

When we talk about the “last mile” in delivery, there’s a part of that last mile that we often leave out: the last few yards. The rest of the mile before that is usually trucks that come from a local depot of some kind to drop packages to customers, but that doesn’t mean the packages magically teleport from the truck into our offices and living rooms. It turns out that GM was able to not only help FedEx electrify that last mile, but also electrify and better manage that last few feet, too.

GM’s Partnership With FedEx

Before we get into today’s news, it makes sense to cover how Fedex and GM’s Brightdrop got here.

In June, FedEx and Brightdrop unveiled a monumental deployment of electric vans, sending the first 150 Zevo 600s to different stations across southern California. This would make up one of the largest dispersions of electric vans that has been seen thus far!

“We’re bringing entirely new ways of doing business to the delivery market by providing a holistic, one-stop-shop portfolio of first- to last-mile solutions that allow fleet customers to do their jobs more efficiently while helping alleviate strain on the workforce, and the environment,” said Rachad Youssef, chief product officer, BrightDrop at the time. “Part of that includes building a software platform that leverages data and simulation to demonstrate how new technologies can work for them. This integration will take our software capabilities to new heights, while continuing to deliver as promised for our customers.”

This is a major milestone for General Motors, as it marks the quickest vehicle launch from conception to production in their entire history. It’s also an impressive feat for FedEx, indicating that it is taking significant strides towards achieving zero tailpipe emissions by 2040.

Acquiring electric vehicles is not sufficient if one wishes to actually drive them; thus, FedEx has taken it upon themselves to install thousands of EV charging stations. In Southern California alone, it has already installed 500 such spots! This means that these newly acquired EVs can be put into motion instantly. To provide power for their current and upcoming station locations, the company must collaborate with utilities and local governments since many more electrical units will be drawn than what a standard Tesla requires — hundreds per state!

“For FedEx to successfully achieve our sustainability goals, it will require collaboration across the public, non-profit and corporate sectors,” said Jackson. “Our ongoing collaboration with BrightDrop is a perfect example of what is possible when two organizations come together and work toward achieving similar goals in pursuit of a better world.”

GM Also Reinvented The Rolling Cart

You’d think that FedEx might just drive the cargo to the destination, load it on a dolley/hand truck or cart of some kind, and then wheel the packages to doorsteps, offices, and mailrooms. But, it turns out that back in June, Brightdrop was working hard to improve even that aspect of delivery. GM’s Brightdrop division ended up buying a company that could give it an edge in artificial intelligence and other software capabilities.

“We’re bringing entirely new ways of doing business to the delivery market by providing a holistic, one-stop-shop portfolio of first- to last-mile solutions that allow fleet customers to do their jobs more efficiently while helping alleviate strain on the workforce, and the environment,” said Rachad Youssef, chief product officer, BrightDrop. “Part of that includes building a software platform that leverages data and simulation to demonstrate how new technologies can work for them. This integration will take our software capabilities to new heights, while continuing to deliver as promised for our customers.”

In order to reach its goal, Brightdrop has acquired Marain, a California-based technology startup. By incorporating the AI-driven software from this company into its systems, Brightdrop can provide improved analysis and forecasting abilities as well as identifying multi-modal solutions for fleet customers who are transitioning to full electrification of their fleets. The concept, though a bit lengthy to understand at first glance, is quite simple: assist companies in switching from their current gasoline and diesel-powered delivery vehicles. However, this transition can often be difficult to accomplish.

Once it had a good means to get companies rolling electric faster, the company then worked on making the rolling cart smarter and tying its new brains into these other advanced systems to make a low-friction delivery solution. You can read more about that here. And here. It really is a cool product and you should read those articles!

Now, FedEx Is Using The Smart Cart On More Routes

This holiday season, New Yorkers will observe the new and improved FedEx Express couriers rolling their modern four-wheel electric carts (e-carts) through city streets. This expansive pilot program aims to revolutionize delivery with its BrightDrop e-cart technology from GM, designed to reduce carbon emissions during last mile deliveries. The expanded pilot has already proved successful in major metropolitan areas! BrightDrop Trace e-carts have been an incredible success in five NYC locations — Diamond District, Theatre District, Midtown East, Midtown, and Brooklyn Heights. This is a continuation of its test site from last year which was held at the Diamond District. FedEx couriers are now able to complete deliveries with ease thanks to BrightDrop’s innovative technology.

During its most hectic season in one of the busiest cities, FedEx is exploring how tools such as e-carts can assist couriers to plan more efficient routes. Utilizing these carts could help reduce vehicle idling and distribute delivery activity away from congested streets, giving a helping hand in easing traffic jams. In an initial pilot in Manhattan, it was seen that when using the e-carts compared to operating without them, there was an increase both with total number of stops as well as amount made per hour — benefiting not only customers but also aiding against congestion levels on roads.

“FedEx customers depend on us to deliver resourcefully and reliably, especially during the holidays. By furthering the use of these carts on real routes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, FedEx hopes to shape what the future of efficient urban delivery could look like,” said Michael Salerno, a FedEx Express senior station operations manager in Manhattan.

With the routes included in the e-cart courier pilot now covering more than seven walking miles across the two boroughs, FedEx hopes to take away more learnings from operating the units in urban environments, and help policymakers envision the future state of last-mile delivery in an evolving urban mobility landscape.

Featured image and other images provided by FedEx.

 
 
 
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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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