Ford To Integrate Walking Robots Into Self-Driving Vans

Ford has announced it is partnering with walking robots maker Agility Robotics for its fleet of self-driving delivery vans.

The two will work together so that the vehicles are outfitted to carry out the final step of getting a customer’s delivery from the car to the front door. Since Ford acquired self-driving startup Argo AI in 2017, it has been working on the development of full-service autonomous driving vans that it could license to companies such as Domino’s Pizza, Lyft and Target.

“Since self-driving vehicles can potentially move people and goods simultaneously, they hold great potential to make deliveries even more convenient and efficient. A ride-hailing trip could double as a delivery service, dropping off packages in between transporting passengers. And, as we’ve learned in our pilot programs, it’s not always convenient for people to leave their homes to retrieve deliveries, or for businesses to run their own delivery services. If we can free people up to focus less on the logistics of making deliveries, they can turn their time and effort to things that really need their attention,” wrote Dr. Ken Washington, VP of research and advanced engineering, and CTO, at Ford, in a blog post.

With that in mind, Ford is working on integrating Agility’s two-legged robot, Digit, into future vans. Digit can lift packages that weigh up to 40 pounds, walk up and down stairs, and venture through uneven terrain. It can even keep its balance after being bumped, and has the ability to fold itself up for easy storage in the back of the vehicle.

“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. 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,” Washington added.


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