There was a time when all this would have seemed farfetched to even think about. However in time human lives as well as their brains have progressed to invent great things for our ease and comfort. To think it all started with fire – first they made fire then clothes … a few years pass by and viola phone, internet, TV and so much more. From having more than one internet provider to them competing to give us their best. We have it all now, don’t we?
The answer to that is no – we still have a long way to go not just to save eart and binge watch our favorite shows using the AT&T TV and internet but also because technology and knowledge knows no bounds. We will keep moving forward. Ford is just one of the many examples of the future 2050 we see in The Flash.
Ford’s motor company has been moving undeviatingly on the path towards fully autonomous driving vans license-able to package/fast-food delivery companies. Their applications are numerous, and this is just the beginning of autonomous driving systems. After Ford’s self-driving vans, they wanted to eliminate human intervention even from taking the package out of the vehicle and deliver it at doors. Agility Robotics came to the rescue this time, they managed to raise $8.8 million in seed funding after the release of their first bipedal model, Cassie. We will talk about it in detail below.
This time around, they developed an improvised version of Cassie and named it ‘Digit’, equipped with pseudo-hands capable of delivering packages to your doorstep.
The “last 50-foot” problem
The “last 50-foot” problem, as intriguing as it sounds, is the automobile companies trying to reduce the need for human intervention in package delivery processes to a bare minimum. Self-driving vehicles have already resolved the issue of transporting packages from one location to another. However, when it comes to delivering packages from curb to door, humanoid robots like Digit came to the rescue! Ford isn’t the only company that proposed to solve the “last 50-foot” problem. Boston Dynamics came with its quadrupedal-package-delivering-alternative. On the contrary, Ford defends its bipedal alternative for this purpose, owing to its greater flexibility and better navigating abilities on rougher terrains.
Meet ‘Digit’ the two-legged robot
Agility Robotics came to existence in 2015 as a commercialized byproduct of Dynamic Robotics by Oregon State University. The laboratory specializes in research on bipedal-locomotion. Their first development was ATRIAS, 2015, a result of a 7-year research program, based on the dynamics of animals. Followed by Cassie, 2016, an engineering optimization of ATRIAS. It was further refined to V3, that was eventually released on a commercial scale in 2017.
Fast forward to the year 2019, Agility robotics revealed their newest development, Digit. This one comes with additional computing power, arms, and torso from Cassie. Digit comes with four degree-of-freedom (4-DOF) arms significantly enhancing the utility of this robot.
Digit is capable of picking and stacking boxes weighing up to 40lb, approximately 18 kg. By virtue of its hands, it is capable of restoring to its position after a fall, decelerate using its arms, and push open a door. In short, it is capable of moving through complex human environments.
Ford Partners with Agility Robotics
The time isn’t too far when bipedal robots will deliver parcels to your doorsteps coming in driverless vehicles. Ford announced its pilot partnership with Agility Robotics, to test ‘Digit’s’ suitability for its futuristic, AI enabled package delivery system.
The vision, as shown in a video released by Ford Motor Company, depicting a humanoid robot spreading out of a self-driving package delivery van. The video shows a self-driving car arriving at the destination, opening its trunk unwinding a robot, it scans the deliverable package, and off it goes to the receiver. Digit is capable of coordinating its positioning data with the van’s connection in case of an obstacle causing confusion in its trajectory.
Digit’s bipedal design helps it steer through the rougher terrains like inclines, steps, cracks and minor hurdles. Ford hasn’t yet announced investing capital in the startup, but the folks at Agility expect that the $8.8 million raised from seed funding will help them in launching the next generation Digit model in summers or early fall.
Ford’s other Autonomous Ventures
Digit isn’t the first AI enabled autonomous venture Ford chose to invest in. Before Digit, Ford went into investing a significant amount of capital into Argo AI, a self-driving tech-start-up based in Pittsburgh. The company is developing autonomous options for different partners who are expected to rebrand the product and offer it commercially.
The company has invested $1 billion in Argo AI. It expects to launch an operational fleet of autonomous cars by 2021.
Ford, America’s second-largest carmaker, recently ventures in a subsidiary, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC. It has plans to invest $4 billion in developing autonomous vehicles during the next four years. It is partnering with brands like Domino’s, Lyft, Walmart and Postmates in cities like Washington, D.C., Detroit, Miami, etc.
Ford, the second largest car manufacturer in the US, has shown a significant interest in self-driving automobiles. It intends to commercialize this product and sell it to potential customers like Domino’s, Target and Lyft. It can serve them in human-less delivery of packages and helping people with their commutes.
The main idea behind reducing human involvement in services like these is to let the machines handle simpler tasks and optimize the human brain utilization in more complex and important tasks.
Ford launched the autonomous pilot, earlier in Miami, in collaboration with fast food delivery partner: Domino’s. The pilot project was a success, and the two companies are polishing it further to come up with the best way to utilize Digit’s humanoid abilities optimally.
Similarly, a Lyft customer can schedule a ride in an autonomous vehicle using his mobile phone app.
The company aims to launch an improvised version of Digit before fall, this year and the CEO of Agility Robotics quoted that they aim to produce 50-100 units by 2021.
With all the world moving at this pace – what do you think? Is this a good idea or something we’d end up regretting in time?