Germany automotive firm Continental is best know for its tires, but at CES 2019 the company is demonstrating something a little different: package delivery by robot dog. As part of its research into the future of mobility, Continental has partnered with robotics company ANYbotics (a spin off from ETH Zurich) to imagine the future of package delivery. In a staged demonstration on the CES show floor, the firm showed how one of ANYbotics' four-legged robots could jump out the back of a self-driving delivery truck and carry a package right up to someone's front door. In the demo, the ANYMal robot could be seen slowly picking its way over debris in the garden before ringing the fake doorbell with one if its limbs. It then tips the package off its back onto the porch and performs a little victory dance as a bonus.
This week, Agility Robotics announced the official release of its two-legged delivery robot called Digit, which it believes could change the'last mile' logistics problems that have long vexed delivery companies. Digit has two robotic legs and two robotic arms and can pick up and hold packages weighing up to 40 pounds. Digit comes equipped with a LIDAR system that will allow it to avoid environmental obstacles and complete basic spatial tasks, such as handing a package its carry to another person (or another Anvil robot). The robot can currently pick up and carry packages autonomously but needs human input to guide it through new or unfamiliar spaces. Last year, Ford announced that it would purchase two units and said it would investigate using Digit to bring packages to customers front steps from self-driving delivery vehicles.
Ford is adding legs to its robocars--sort of. The automaker is announcing today that its fleet of autonomous delivery vans will carry more than just packages: Riding along with the boxes in the back there will be a two-legged robot. Digit, Agility Robotics' humanoid unveiled earlier this year on the cover of IEEE Spectrum, is designed to move in a more dynamic fashion than regular robots do, and it's able to walk over uneven terrain, climb stairs, and carry 20-kilogram packages. Ford says in a post on Medium that Digit will bring boxes from the curb all the way to your doorstep, covering those last few meters that self-driving cars are unable to. The company plans to launch a self-driving vehicle service in 2021.
Self-driving delivery vehicles may be getting closer to becoming a reality, but Ford believes there's one leg of the process that could be further solved by robots. The auto giant has partnered with startup Agility Robotics to create a two-legged robot called'Digit' that can ferry packages to your doorstep. It solves a problem generated by self-driving delivery vehicles, which is that if there's no humans in the driver's seat that can drop off a package, autonomous robots can pick up the slack. 'It's not always convenient for people to leave their homes to retrieve deliveries or for businesses to run their own delivery services,' Ken Washington, chief technology officer at Ford, wrote in a blog post. '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.