In the future, you might find a two-legged robot (walks like a human) at your doorstep, delivering a parcel. Ford, better known for its car, has the same vision for the future of package deliveries, and it started with a robot named ‘Digit.’
The company announced recently that it is testing a robot to carry deliveries from its self-driving cars to customers’ doorsteps. The automaker has already teamed up with Domino to pilot pizza deliveries in autonomous cars. But, now Ford thinks it is very inconvenient for customers to walk outside their homes and collect their packages from the self-driving cars waiting outside.
So, it partnered with a startup, Agility Robotics, that makes a human-like robot. They created a Digit that would be bundled into the back of a self-driving car.
The overall idea is Ford will develop autonomous vehicles to transport the packages to the customer’s home, and then Agility’s bipedal robot Digit will pick up the parcel and drop it on your doorstep. No humans are required at all.
Digit- a two-legged robot
Digit stands out just over 5 feet tall. It has a pair of skeleton legs, two arms ending in shapeless nubs, and a sensor array where its head should be. It can be easily recharged in the back of the car, which means it can leave any bulky batteries at home. And the sensors that provide the vehicle with its eyes and ears (cameras, LIDAR, etc.) can be used to create detailed maps that guide Digit to its destination and back.
The robot is made out of lightweight material and looks supple, but don’t let that fool you. It is still strong enough to lift packages that weigh up to 40 pounds. Digit can even walk everywhere humans can, such as stairs and uneven terrain.
Agility Robotics believes that legs are more suited for this task than wheels because they’re more capable of navigating an environment built for humans.
However, there are some disadvantages that a legged robot can have. They are still comparatively unstable- if they fall over, they might have trouble getting up. Also, the legged robots cannot carry heavy items, as their wheeled brother do, and they are mostly slower and less agile.
Therefore, Ford and Agility Robotics imagine that remote operators will monitor the robots. If Digit gets confused while carrying a package, it will communicate with Ford’s vehicles for guidance.
Ford showed in a video how Digit could fold itself up in the back of the vehicle, get out, and carry a package to the front door.
The company doesn’t yet reveal when it will launch a commercial delivery program with Digit.