Ford and Agility Team Up for Bipedal Robot Deliveries – PCMag

Carrying out that final delivery step from the car to the door has yet to be automated, but Ford and Agility Robotics are attempting to solve it with Digit, a bipedal robot.

Ford and Agility Robotics Bipedal Robot Digit Deliveries

Online retailers are very keen to remove humans from the delivery process. As soon as they can fully-automate deliveries with self-driving trucks, you can bet they will, but one big hurdle remains: how do you get the box from the vehicle to the door? Ford and Agility Robotics are attempting to solve that very problem with a bipedal robot.

The idea here is to combine Ford’s self-driving vehicles with Agility Robotics’ box-carrying robots. Agility developed Digit, a bipedal robot capable of walking just like a human while being able to carry up to 40 pounds of weight. Digit can handle uneven terrain and obstacle avoidance while conveniently folding up tightly to fit in the back of a vehicle without taking up much space.

The clever extra step Ford has taken here is to use its self-driving vehicle as a guide for Digit. The robot is equipped with LiDAR and cameras to help it navigate the surrounding environment, but it can call for help from the vehicle to wirelessly aid it in navigating an unexpected or difficult scenario.

By sharing the load between the robot and the vehicle, the robot can be made more lightweight and therefore Digit can function for longer without requiring a recharge. It’s also “help for free” because the self-driving vehicle needs all the tech it shares with the robot for it to function without a human driver.

Solving the final step of the delivery process is sure to draw the attention of companies including Amazon, who I’m sure would love to replace a driver in the front with a robot in the back of each delivery vehicle. For now, this is just an experiment by Ford to “understand how this new delivery method can be taken advantage of in the future.” The question is, how far away is that future?


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