Ford has partnered up with tech start-up, Agility Robotics, in a venture to bring a vision to life. The idea is to have walking robots team-up with Ford’s self-driving vehicles as a solution to the curb to door problem. The Digit, a two-legged robot made by Agility, has a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) system in place of a head, it can lift around 40 pounds (18kg), and could easily tag along in a self-driving vehicle to the destination where it will deploy itself to complete the final part of the delivery.
Chief Technology Officer at Ford Motors, Ken Washington, says, “We’re looking at the opportunity of autonomous vehicles through the lens of the consumer and we know from some early experimentation that there are challenges with the last 50 feet”.
Ford’s automated vehicle and the Digit will be able to communicate with each other as needed. Upon arrival at the destination, the AV will already be relaying data to the Digit as it starts up and unfolds itself. It can also connect with the AV at anytime to receive further information that might be necessary for the Digit to make important decisions.
Chief Executive Officer of Agility Robotics, Damion Shelton, said, “If you know you’re riding around in the vehicle with a clear view of your entire surroundings, it’s a lot easier to get up and move around. That’s really how we’re viewing the primary purpose of this beta exchange; to help the robot be aware of its surroundings, so that you don’t go through this sort of boot up process where the robot gets out of the car and is confused for the first 30 seconds it’s turned on.”
The Digit is not the only route Ford is looking into, but it does have an edge over wheel based robots, such as moving up staircases, and maneuvering over other basic obstacles.