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Ford partners with Agility Robotics to research whether robots could help with last-mile delivery

Through the research project, Ford wants to explore how robots and self-driving cars could work together to deliver groceries and other deliveries.

Ford has partnered with startup Agility Robotics to pilot Digit, a bipedal autonomous delivery robot that aims to simplify last-mile delivery.

Standing at just over five feet tall, the robot is built out of lightweight material and is capable of lifting packages that weigh up to 40 pounds.

Through the research project, Ford wants to explore how robots and self-driving cars could work together to deliver groceries and other deliveries.

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Ford says that the robot’s unique design means it can tightly fold itself for storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle.

Then once the vehicle arrives at its destination the robot can complete the last crucial step of the delivery: picking up the parcel and delivering it to the doorstop.

Digit the robot is equipped with LiDar and camera to help it navigate its surrounding environment and if it encounters an unexpected or difficult to obstacle it can send an image back to the vehicle to figure a solution.

“A ride-hailing trip could double as a delivery service, dropping off packages in between transporting passengers,” Ford’s CTO, Ken Washington, wrote in a blog post announcing the research project.

“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.”

Digit is just one of many autonomous delivery pilots underway  this year. Amazon and USPS are experimenting with autonomous trucks and DHL has launched drone delivery services in China and Germany.

Ford and Agility Robotics partnership is categorised as a research project for now.

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