Voice and video calls have practically replaced face-to-face boardroom meetings while instant messaging has enabled friends and family to stay in touch. But what do we do about parcel deliveries? Is there a technological solution that enables A to B parcel deliveries without requiring face-to-face human interaction at any point?
If Ford’s autonomous logistics solution – a last-mile logistics solution combining Ford Motor Company’s autonomous vehicle technology and Agility Robotics’ bipedal robot called ‘Digit’ – goes mainstream soon, then the answer is yes.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the resultant restrictions have shown there’s risk involved with face-to-face human interactions. Ford and Agility Robotics have rethought how deliveries of the future might happen.
Key applications for further exploration are indoor or first-mile logistics and last-50-feet delivery. The research also will focus on how Ford’s commercial vehicles and Digit “talk” to each other and their surroundings through advanced connectivity technologies. For example, Ford’s connected vehicles can continually update cloud-based maps that can be shared with Digit so it doesn’t have to recreate the same type of information.
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. Digit’s design also allows it to tightly fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a vehicle until it’s called into action. Once a vehicle 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.
If it encounters an unexpected obstacle, it can send an image back to the vehicle to leverage additional computing power. The vehicle could even send that information into the cloud and request help from other systems to enable Digit to navigate, providing multiple levels of assistance that help keep the robot light and nimble. Digit’s light weight also helps ensure it has a long run time, which is essential for delivery businesses that operate continuously through the business day.