Here’s an understatement: People like online shopping.
It’s easy to see why. One-click shopping and perks like two-day delivery are extremely convenient, but they are taking a toll on our cities and neighborhoods. The U.S. Postal Service alone delivered more than 6 billion packages in 2018.
Since self-driving vehicles can potentially move people and goods simultaneously, they hold great potential to make deliveries even more convenient and efficient.
That’s where Digit comes in. Digit is a two-legged robot designed and built by Agility Robotics to not only approximate the look of a human, but to walk like one, too. Gaining access to a customer’s door often requires walking through obstacles, including going up stairs and dealing with other challenges, which can be hard for robots with wheels to do since only about 1 percent of homes in the United States are wheelchair-accessible. Digit is built out of lightweight material and capable of :
lifting packages that weigh up to 40 pounds
going up and down stairs
walking naturally through uneven terrain
reacting to things like being bumped without losing its balance and falling over.
unique design also allows it to tightly fold itself up for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle
While Digit needs to function on its own, the desire to keep it lightweight and capable of dynamic movement led to an innovative idea: Letting it tap the resources of another robot.
A self-driving vehicle is capable of creating a detailed map of the surrounding environment, so why not share that data with Digit instead of having it recreate the same type of information? After all, both Digit and the self-driving car need to know where they are in the world, where they need to go and how to get there. When a self-driving vehicle brings Digit to its final destination, the vehicle can wirelessly deliver all the information it needs, including the best pathway to the front door. Through this data exchange, Digit can work collaboratively with a vehicle to situate itself and begin making its delivery.
Outfitted with a LiDAR and a few stereo cameras, Digit itself has just enough sensory power to navigate through basic scenarios. If it encounters an unexpected obstacle, it can send an image back to the vehicle and have the vehicle configure a solution. The car could even send that information into the cloud and request help from other systems to enable Digit to navigate, providing multiple levels of assistance that help keep the robot light and nimble.
Whether we are working side-by-side with robots in our numerous factories around the world or living with them as they help push packages to our door, our primary goal is to ensure they are safe, reliable and capable of working alongside people in intelligent ways.
Through our collaboration with Agility, we are striving to determine the best way for our self-driving vehicles to cooperate with Digit and understand how this new delivery method can be taken advantage of in the future.