Supplement, Wheelers

Ford unveils delivery robot for self-driving vans

Published : 02 Jun 2019 04:30 PM | Updated : 05 Sep 2020 08:21 PM

Dr Ken Washington, Ford's chief technology officer, unveiled the Digit delivery robot via post on the company's Medium blog.

Developed and built by Agility Robotics, Digit is said to answer the question of how to get packages from autonomous delivery vans into the hands, or at least the doorstep, of its recipient.

With only about 1% of American homes being wheelchair accessible, a wheeled robot was not seen as being a feasible solution.

According to Washington, Digit is able to navigate around objects in its path, stay stable if it's inadvertently bumped, handle uneven terrain, and go up and down stairs.

Unlike other bipedal robots, Digit has been designed primarily to be light and compact in order to maximise its operating time between charges.

Digit is fitted with LIDAR sensor and a few stereo cameras, so it can handle some basic navigation tasks by itself, but lot of the processing work can be outsourced to the delivery van.

On arrival at its final destination, the van will scan the area and map out the best path for the robot. If Digit happens to encounter a situation it can't handle, it can ask for the van for some assistance or, even, access a cloud-based service.

Photo: Reuters