Autonomous Vehicles + Robots = Delivery

Amazon, FedEx, and the U.S. Post Office are all toying with self-driving vehicles and/or robot delivery. Why not put the two ideas together?

That’s where Ford Motor Company’s new project is headed. Ford is planning to launch its own self-driving ride service in the next couple of years, and it sees package delivery as a natural offshoot. More packages are being delivered to home and businesses now than ever before, thanks to the growth of e-commerce. The Post Office is delivering twice as many packages now as it was a decade ago.

So Ford started thinking about how a ride-sharing service could also deliver packages. They got together with Agility Robotics to create a tall, skinny robot that can fold up small in the back of a car, then unfold itself and grab a package for delivery. The robot, named Digit, walks rather than relying on wheels. This makes it much better at handling uneven terrain, steps, and other obstacles that are likely to come up when delivering a package to a home.

Here’s where things get clever. When Digit grabs the package, it goes into a mind-meld with the car it has just climbed from. Cars nowadays have fairly robust computing ability, including mapping skills. The car tells Digit the best route to the delivery location — how to get up to the porch of the house they’re parked in front of, for example.

If Digit gets stuck, it can snap a picture and send it to the car for advice. Between Digit and the car, or even additional resources in the cloud, Ford reckons package delivery will be a snap.

Since deliveries can be slotted in between human passenger trips, the system should save fuel and increase efficiency. Digit can recharge in the back of the car, and remote operators can help out as needed.

Ford hopes to have real testing started some time next year, but it may still be a few more years before you see Digit on your front porch.

In the meantime, think of us whenever you need service or support for your Rexroth electric industrial motion control systems. You’ll talk with an expert when you call, not with a call center. We can usually diagnose your problem over the phone, and we’ll get your troubles solved fast.


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