Robots able to carry boxes and walk on two legs like a human will play a part in helping Ford develop new ideas for its commercial vehicle range.
A partnership with Oregon-based Agility Robotics has seen Ford take delivery of the very first two production examples of the Digit robot.
Made with human-like arms and legs, Digit is designed to undertake logistics duties like delivering packages. For the Blue Oval, this offers opportunities in exploring how robots can be used to assist autonomous vehicles.
Final steps to parcel delivery
Part of the research will involve learning how Ford vehicles can ‘talk’ to Digit. This could mean sharing location data taken from Ford’s cloud-based maps, or using the vehicle to transmit images back to a base station.
The plans for Digit involve the robots undertaking ‘last-50-feet delivery’ package delivery work. In the future, a self-driving Ford vehicle could arrive outside your home, and then use a Digit robot to bring the parcel to your front door.
If something unexpected occurs, Digit is able to ask for help on what the best course of action should be. It can also follow the instructions on where to leave packages if the customer is not in, meaning a potential end to parcels flung over gates and fences.
More parcels, more possibilities
Digit’s design is a development of previous creations by Agility Robotics, which launched the ‘Cassie’ model in 2017. Advances in sensors, and even new feet, are said to have given Digit even greater flexibility for logistics use.
Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, and Chief Technology Officer, commented that the growth of e-commerce should mean “robots will help our commercial customers build stronger businesses by making deliveries more efficient and affordable for all of us.”
Two pre-production versions of Digit will be on display at the Ford booth for CES 2020. Running from January 7th through January 10th, the Las Vegas show will see a number of automakers showing off innovations alongside established tech companies.