Ken Washington, Ford’s vice-president (research and advanced engineering) and chief technology officer, says that while one-click shopping and perks like two-day delivery are extremely convenient, they are taking a toll on cities and neighbourhoods.
“The US Postal Service alone delivered more than 6 billion packages in 2018, which is double the volume it was handling about 10 years ago.
“To help address this issue, Ford is teaming up with Agility Robotics to explore a brand-new frontier in the world of autonomy — and a new way of thinking about how we make deliveries.
Together, we will work towards making sure self-driving vehicles are outfitted to accomplish something that’s proven surprisingly difficult to do — carry out that final step of getting your delivery from the car to your door.
“Since self-driving vehicles can potentially move people and goods simultaneously, they hold great potential to make deliveries even more convenient and efficient.
“A ride-hailing trip could double as a delivery service, dropping off packages in between transporting passengers.”
Digit is a two-legged robot designed and built by Agility Robotics to not only approximate the look of a human but also walk like one.
Built out of lightweight material and capable of lifting packages weighing up to 40lb, it can go up and down stairs, walk naturally through uneven terrain, and even react to being bumped with-out losing its balance and falling over.
Digit’s design also allows it to tightly fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle; once the vehicle arrives at its destination, Digit can take the package and carry out the final step in the delivery process.
Furthermore, it can interface with self-driving vehicles, which themselves need to create a detailed map of their environment.
Mr Washington (www.corporate.ford.com
) said: “Fitted with a LiDAR and stereo cameras, Digit 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 it 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.”