Ford knows that autonomous cars will be used in a big way for delivery services. People who buy stuff online don’t always have time or the desire to walk out to the road to get their packages off the autonomous delivery vehicle. So the automotive and mobility company is working on solutions for those last 50 feet to the door.
Ford recently teamed with Agility Robotics to create a robot called Digit. The ‘bot can carry up to 40 pounds to your door, though it will probably terrorize small children and pets whilst doing it.
Digit is a bipedal robot that can navigate the environment that most humans use every day. It’s made of lightweight materials for long battery life and can fold to store in the trunk of a vehicle until needed. The robot has minimal sensors using only stereo cameras and LiDAR to navigate. Ford says when needed, it can connect to bigger robots with more powerful sensors.
Ford hasn’t announced any delivery partners who plan on using Digit as of yet, but robot delivery people bringing packages to our doors could happen as soon as next year.
The guys at Ford believe the technology designed to operate cars has the potential of bettering life outside the vehicle too. Starting with their design for a self-rolling mattress that keeps space-hoggers on their side of the bed based on their car lane-keeping technology, Ford’s moved onto bettering the trolley, arguably the most difficult four-wheeler to control.
Trolleys are notoriously stubborn. Even as an adult, it’s hard to perfectly maneuver a trolley, so imagine it in the hands of a child who’s bored at the supermarket. Aside from not having much control over the vehicle, children can barely see where they’re going with a hulking trolley in front of them, causing accidents, aisle spills, and disrupting the activities of supermarkets. However, with Ford’s self-braking technology, that chaos is a thing of the past. Ford’s self-braking trolley comes with a forward-facing camera combined with radar that can perform object detection and proximity sensing. When the trolley begins approaching an obstacle, the self-braking trolley slowly grinds to a halt, making sure it doesn’t knock down anything or anyone.
The Self-Braking Trolley is a pretty remarkable way for Ford to not only demonstrate, but incrementally improve their own self-driving and self-braking tech. The current trolley, while remarkable, misses one crucial feature. The trolleys aren’t designed to nest into each other (probably given that the braking technology would fail in that regard), which also means they can’t be compactly stored the way current trolleys can. However, you win some, you lose some, right? I’m sure Ford can figure a solution out…