Ford teams with robotics company for autonomous delivery
Meet ‘Digit’, the walking robot that will replace the postman one day
Ford has teamed up with a company called ‘Agility Robotics’ to create a robot and self-driving car dream team
The robot receives all its information from the car, meaning the car is the thing figuring out what route to take from vehicle to door.
It can even be ‘bumped’ without falling over
Ford is joining the likes of Amazon and FedEx in the race to make robot deliverymen. Amazon and FedEx’s robots though have wheels, Ford however is creating a fully walking humanoid robot.
Earlier in the year, we heard about the ‘Amazon Scout’, an electric hamper on six giant wheels that would push the world into the age of robotic delivery systems. Then we saw that FedEx was joining in with the ‘FedEx SameDay Bot’, these two quirky little creations though don’t do it like Ford is going to do it.
The 'Amazon Scout'
The 'FedEx SameDay Bot'
Meet ‘Digit’, a robot born out of a partnership between Ford and a robotics company called ‘Agility Robotics’. ‘Digit’ was created to look like a human and to also move like one, an ability that Amazon and FedEx cannot boast about its robots. ‘Digit’ is built out of lightweight material and is able to lift packages up to 40 pounds. Thanks to its humanoid design, ‘Digit can walk up and down stairs, uneven terrain, and react to being ‘bumped’ without falling over.
Here’s where it gets really clever though, ‘Digit’ doesn’t work on its own, in order to reduce weight, all the technology needed for scanning and processing information about terrain is housed within the self-driving car that ‘Digit’ folds out of.
As described by Ford: “Outfitted with a LiDAR and a few stereo cameras, Digit itself has just enough sensory power to navigate through basic scenarios. If it encounters an unexpected obstacle, it can send an image back to the vehicle and have the vehicle configure a solution. The car could even send that information into the cloud and request help from other systems to enable Digit to navigate, providing multiple levels of assistance that help keep the robot light and nimble.”
The long term plan here is to have Ford’s self-driving taxi service (which is rumoured to start popping up in 2021), to double as a self-driving delivery service. Having the robot taxis take around customers, while making brief stops for ‘Digit’ to do its work. “A ride-hailing trip could double as a delivery service, dropping off packages in between transporting passengers.” as Ford has put it.
As shown in the provided video, ‘Digit’ acknowledges and avoids an obstacle, what everyone must be thinking though is just how durable this thing is. Sure it can survive ‘bumps’, but how delicate a bump are we talking about? Is this robot postman going to be able to traverse the postman-hating dog in the front garden? Probably not? Is this robot going to just go about its duty without attracting attention of bored teenagers who want to poke it around? Probably not?
No date has been given for when ‘Digit’ and its team of robot cars will be out and about delivering to the public. We have a feeling though that they’re going to trial this in gated communities where the ‘Digit’ is less likely to hit trouble.
Take a look at the video below: