At some point in the not too distant future, there will be autonomous cars cruising the roads with no human behind the wheel. The first place we are likely to see the autonomous auto tech heavily leveraged is for delivery services. The expectation is that someone will order a package online; the autonomous vehicle will be loaded and drive to the delivery address.
Once at the delivery address is where the challenge comes in. If the person who ordered the package is home, they could walk to the delivery vehicle and get their package. The challenge comes in if the package needs to be carried the last 50-feet to the door.
Ford sees robots working in conjunction with cars as the answer to the challenge of the last 50-feet. Ford has teamed up with Agility Robots to explore how to get the packages the final step to the door. This is where a robot called Digit built by Agility Robotics comes in.
Digit is designed to be bipedal and humanoid with construction from lightweight material making it capable of lifting up to 40 pounds. Digit can walk up and down stairs and walk naturally on uneven terrain. It can also react when bumped without losing its balance. The design of the robot allows it to fold itself for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle until it’s needed.
Digit is meant to be lightweight and straightforward, but it does have the ability to tap into the resources of another robot with advanced sensors and heavy computing hardware when needed. Digit has only want it needs onboard to navigate basic scenarios with LiDAR and a few stereo cameras. The lightweight design also means battery power lasts longer, something essential for autonomous delivery services.