Ford Introduces Digit, a Robot Designed to Deliver Goods from the Self-Driving Cars that Partly Power it

Photo courtesy of Agility Robotics.

While self-driving delivery cars have their appeal, they also come with challenges—including figuring out how to get items from the car to the customer’s doorstep. Ford Motor Co. is working with Agility Robotics to create a solution, and it’s known as Digit.

Agility designed the two-legged robot to look like and walk like a human, according to a Ford Motor Co. blog written by Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, and chief technology officer. The robot is made of lightweight material and can lift packages weighing up to 40 pounds. It also can walk up and down stairs, handle uneven terrain and react when it’s bumped.

“Digit’s unique design also allows it to tightly fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle until it’s called into action,” according to the blog. “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.”

Digit also has the ability to tap into the resources of the self-driving vehicle it travels in, giving it another advantage. This makes it possible to keep it lightweight and gives it the long run time it needs to complete deliveries.

“When a self-driving vehicle brings Digit to its final destination, the vehicle can wirelessly deliver all the information it needs, including the best pathway to the front door,” according to the blog. “Through this data exchange, Digit can work collaboratively with a vehicle to situate itself and begin making its delivery.”

Digit comes equipped with a LiDAR and a few stereo cameras and has enough sensory power to navigate through basic scenarios. When it comes across something unexpected, it can send an image back to the vehicle to come up with a solution. The car might send that information to the cloud and request information from other systems. This offers the robot multiple layers of assistance.

“Whether we are working side-by-side with robots in our numerous factories around the world or living with them as they help push packages to our door, our primary goal is to ensure they are safe, reliable and capable of working alongside people in intelligent ways,” according to the blog. “Through our collaboration with Agility, we are striving to determine the best way for our self-driving vehicles to cooperate with Digit and understand how this new delivery method can be taken advantage of in the future.”

For more details and to view the blog with video click this link: