To ‘Digit’, the walking robot for the Ford self-driving vans

(Reuters) – Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday the cooperation with current robots maker Agility Robotics as the design of a planned fleet of self-driving vans who drop packages at the doorsteps of people’s homes.

An undated handout image of Figures, a two legged walking robot that can lift packages weighing up to 40 pounds. Tim LaBarge, Ford/handout via REUTERS

The United States’ second-largest carmaker has been steadily on the development of full-service autonomous driving vans that have the potential to license out to companies ranging from Domino’s Pizza, Lyft or Purpose.

The green light was given for a self-driving pilot with the delivery partners, including Domino’s in Miami last year, and it said it was working on the best way to integrate with the Agility of the two-legged robot, Figures, in the future of light commercial vehicles.

Digit capable of lifting packages weighing up to 40 pounds, can walk up and down stairs and through rough terrain, while maintaining balance after being bumped, Ford said.

“It is not always useful for the people out of their homes to pick up supplies,” Ken Washington, Ford’s chief technology officer, said.

“If we free people up to focus less on the logistics of deliveries, they can their time and effort to things that really need their attention.”

After Ford bought Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based self-driving and startup in 2017, the company has taken, designed to provide the autonomous vehicle the service to multiple partners, who in turn would offer to their customers under their own brand name.

A Lyft customer, for example, planning a ride from a Lyft app for mobile phones in a Ford self-driving car.

But with the rising cost of development for the autonomous cars in the past few years, the company and other car manufacturers have sought alliances and outside investors.

Ford is in talks with Germany’s Volkswagen AG for an investment in the Argo unit, potentially saving billions in development costs.

Reporting by ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Patrick Graham

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