Ford Plans Robot For ‘Delivery by Hand’

Ford is developing a two-legged robot in a bid to solve the last-mile gap between a driverless delivery vehicle and the human consumer.

Working with Agility Robotics , the carmaker is keen to overcome the hurdle it first encountered in driverless delivery trials with Domino’s Pizzas where the urban customer would have come down to street level from a high-rise apartment to pick up the pizza.

Named ‘Digit’, the robot has been designed to replicate the look of a human with legs and arms to carry the package it is delivering. The head is packed with cameras and a LiDAR sensor which can detect obstacles and obstructions in its path which need avoiding, as well as things like uphill or downhill inclines, steps and other terrain-altering properties it might encounter on its deliveries.

A Ford autonomous van drives the robot its the delivery location, parks itself, then opens the rear loading hatch. Digit then unfolds itself, delivers the package and folds itself back into the van, which then drives away. The robot can carry packages of up to 40lbs and, through its gyroscopes and accelerometers, can avoid being knocked off balance or bumped while walking.

The vehicle will work out a route to the front door of the location for the robot to follow when deployed. If Digit encounters something it doesn’t know how to handle, it can send an image back to the LCV which can then figure out a solution. Complicated issues can also be uploaded on to the cloud and help crowd-sourced from other artificial intelligence networks.

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