9 vaguely unsettling thoughts about the FedEx SameDay Bot
As reported in Wednesday's edition of Ad Age's Marketer's Brief, Pizza Hut intends to start testing something called the FedEx SameDay Bot to deliver pizza in Memphis starting this summer. But in "Meet the FedEx SameDay Bot," an ad that started airing on national TV last night (premiering in a 30-second version during "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," according to iSpot.tv), the autonomous delivery vehicle is supposed to be more than just a pizza delivery boy. Watch it in action above and then take in some of our thoughts and, uh, concerns:
1. This FedEx SameDay Bot has a gloriously (and unrealistically) simple existence: It's shown navigating uncrowded sidewalks and crosswalks on a sunny day, successfully gliding through shallow puddles and potholes, coming to a gentle stop as a child's basketball rolls in front of it in slow motion, and climbing the wide, unobstructed steps of a perfectly maintained porch. (A third of the way into the ad we see a tiny type disclaimer that reads "Prototype in development and testing in 2019. Closed course." Duly noted.)
2. The bot, it turns out, has shown up with cough medicine for a sick child. So hey, y'all! Need some pizza and/or meds? Why not, you know, "flag down" the next FedEx SameDay Bot you see?
3. The FedEx SameDay Bot looks perilously top-heavy. My inner nine-year-old wants to try to knock it over. I'm not saying I'm actually going to do that if I see one in the wild, but somebody's going to. Somebodies. Lots of somebodies.
And what happens if, specifically, Kevin gets to it? (NSFW language)
4. If you (or Kevin) do try to screw with the FedEx SameDay Bot and it tells you to stop, will you (or Kevin) have 20 seconds to comply? (NSFW robot violence)
5. The ad ends with a tagline voiced by a cheerful announcer: "The future. What we deliver. By delivering." Um, OK? That's convincing—along the lines of "Death. What comes after living. For all who are alive."
6. The impossibly twee soundtrack—a cover of the Shelley Duvall song "He Needs Me"—is of the sort that's de rigueur these days in future-tech commercials. It is meant to say "Humans, do not be alarmed! Robot is your friend!" Which, honestly, makes it more annoying than comforting.
7. Wait, I can't let go of the song yet. And not only because the ad starts with this profundity: "La de da da da da da da da da dah." But because of the lyrics "And all at once I knew / I knew at once / I knew he needed me" and "He needs me / he needs me / he needs me / he needs me." Who needs you? The sick child? FedEx CEO Fred Smith? The human delivery person whose job was replaced by the FedEx SameDay Bot?
8. The FedEx SameDay Bot is shown just briefly chilling out on the porch before the mother of the house opens the door and retrieves the cough medicine in its belly. But we already know, from Boston Dynamics, that robots can open doors. Why not have the FedEx SameDay Bot let itself into the house, climb the stairs to the sick child's bedroom and administer the medicine itself? No half measures!
9. Honestly, who needs parents at all? Or any humans?