When the self-driving delivery vans finally arrive, it’s going to be a challenge getting packages from the vehicle to the doorstep. That’s where Ford’s partnership with Digit – a bipedal robot from Agility Robotics – comes in handy.
The main problem is that watching a two-legged robot like Digit can be creepy and disconcerting, especially when it awkwardly walks on its creature-like legs and then bends over – or when it sneakily unfolds itself from the back of the delivery van.
Ford plans to use Digit to carry packages up to 40 pounds when humans aren’t around to help grab deliveries from the back of a truck or van. Digit can walk up and down stairs, navigate around obstacles in its path, and stay balanced even after getting bumped. The humanoid can also fold up, so it stows away in the back of the delivery van ready to unfold and carry packages once the van arrives.
Digit has LiDAR sensors and cameras and also can “connect” to the self-driving vehicle, so data and information from the vehicle are sent over to the robot. It’s like a futuristic mind-meld to make sure the robot gets to the front door smoothly.
Agility is still testing Digit, but expects to start delivering the robot in the start of 2020. Ford’s self-driving plans are aiming for a 2021 launch.