Ford’s fleet of autonomous vehicles will soon be able to deliver all manner of items to customers waiting in their homes or workplaces, but it’s the final curb-to-door journey that still poses a problem for even the most sophisticated self-driving vehicles.
Speaking in an interview with TechCrunch, Ford Motor’s chief technology officer Ken Washington described the issue as the “last 50-foot problem”.
While robots on wheels are unable to step over cracks or up stairs, a two-legged robot may finally solve the vehicle-to-doorstep problem.
That’s why the Ford is teaming up with startup Agility Robotics in a research project to test how two-legged robots and driverless cars can work together for the last part of the journey.
Agility brings a two-legged robot capable of lifting 40 pounds to the table. Known as Digit, the robot can ride along in a self-driving vehicle, deployed the needed to deliver packages.
“We’re looking at the opportunity of autonomous vehicles through the lens of the consumer and we know from some early experimentation that there are challenges with the last 50 feet,” Washington told TechCrunch in a recent interview.
The solution could make all the difference for Ford, who will launch a commercial robotaxi service in 2021.
Ford and Agility’s agreement is still categorised as a research project, with Ford yet to take an equity stake in Agility, although Washington added that “that doesn’t mean we’re not open to it at some point.”