Last year, the U.S. Postal Service delivered more than 6 billion packages to households around the nation, roughly double the volume handled some 10 years ago.
In order to lighten this load, Ford joined forces with Agility Robotics in an attempt to also reshape the way deliveries are being made, while giving autonomous delivery vehicles a hand by helping them execute that precious final step of getting the package from the car, directly to your door.
The general consensus is that fully-autonomous vehicles will be great additions to delivery fleets worldwide, but without another gimmick available to them, you’ll still need to exit your house in order to physically pick up the package from the vehicle.
Meet Digit…he’s harmless
Agility Robotics came up with a humanoid-like solution dubbed ‘Digit’, which is a two-legged robot built out of lightweight material, capable of lifting up to 40 lbs (18 kg). It can go up and down stairs, walk naturally on uneven terrain and you can even bump it (inadvertently, we hope) without it losing its balance.
Digit’s unique design allows it to fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle until needed to complete the final leg of a delivery. Furthermore, it is connected to the vehicle’s computer brain and thus can learn from the car about the surrounding environment.
In order to navigate, Digit uses LiDAR and a few stereo cameras, however if it encounters some type of unexpected obstacle, it will send an image back to the vehicle and have the latter come up with a solution on how to overcome said obstacle.
While we’re still many years away from seeing a bunch of Digits walking around everywhere, it’s good to know that automakers and hard at work trying to help out other sectors through their autonomous technology.