New robot could be future of self-driving vehicle delivery

May 22, 2019 //By Rich Pell
New robot could be future of self-driving vehicle delivery
Automaker Ford (Detroit, MI) has announced that it is partnering with legged locomotion specialist Agility Robotics (Albany, OR) to explore a new way of thinking about self-driving car deliveries.

Together, the companies say they will work toward making sure self-driving vehicles are able to accomplish something that's proven surprisingly difficult to do - carry out the final step of getting a delivery from the car to the recipient's front door. To that end, the companies are exploring the use of a two-legged robot designed and built by Agility Robotics, called "Digit."

Digit was designed to not only approximate the look of a human, but to walk like one, too. Built out of lightweight material and capable of lifting packages that weigh up to 40 pounds, Digit can go up and down stairs, walk naturally through uneven terrain, and even react to things like being bumped without losing its balance and falling over.

"As humans, we take these abilities for granted, but they become extremely important when engineering a robot to navigate the nuances of various environments." says Dr. Ken Washington, Vice President, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, and Chief Technology Officer. "Gaining access to a customer's door often requires walking through obstacles, including going up stairs and dealing with other challenges, which can be hard for robots with wheels to do since only about one percent of homes in the United States are wheelchair-accessible, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

Digit has been designed to walk upright without wasting energy, so it has no issue traversing the same types of environments most people do every day. In addition, its design also allows it to tightly fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle until it's needed. Once a self-driving car arrives at its destination, Digit can be deployed to grab a package from the vehicle and carry out the final step in the delivery process.

"But Digit isn't just capable of traversing obstacles - it has a hidden advantage," says Washington. "While Digit needs to function on its own, the desire

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