Nowadays, we keep hearing about how automakers talk about all the partnerships they have for autonomous cars, carsharing, large-scale electrification, and just general "mobility solutions" are up to date, and some are legitimate research. I'm not going to speculate in which camp this new Ford research will go to parcel delivery robots, but I'll say that I do not mind the concept.
With Ford's layoffs in the news, the company dropped a new press release describing how it teamed with an Oregon-based startup called Agility Robotics (19459005) (19459006) to "Last Mile Delivery" (1
Ford's Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering, Dr. Ing. Ken Washington, wrote all about this partnership on medium, by starting that the postal service had delivered in 2018 twice the volume he had delivered 10 years ago, and Ford plans to work with Agility to solve this problem:
Together, we will ensure that self-driving vehicles are uniquely equipped to accomplish something that has turned out to be surprisingly difficult: Take this final step through your delivery from the car to your door.
Developed by Agility Robotics, the small turquoise robot you see here is called Digit. It is a lightweight biped machine that seems to be able to move up and down 40 pounds detecting and responding to obstacles and recovering from bumps. It is equipped with LiDAR and cameras and set up for data exchange with a self-driving car. By Ford:
When a self-driving vehicle brings Digit to its final destination, the vehicle can wirelessly provide all the information it needs including the best route to the front door. Through this data exchange, Digit can work with a vehicle to locate itself and begin delivery.
If it encounters an unexpected obstacle, it can send a picture back to the vehicle and let the vehicle configure a solution. The car could even send this information to the cloud and request help from other systems so that Digit can navigate. This provides multiple levels of support to keep the robot light and agile.
Is this just silly, or will we actually see a kind of result of "Digit"? We have to wait and see. Do we really need a robot to deliver packages? I dont know. In general, I do not think we have to robotize all aspects of our lives, but I think for a task as simple as putting a box down at my front door, a robot is not a terrible idea. Especially since my postman does not say more to me and I bet a robot is more resistant to aggressive bites from German shepherds.