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OM in the News: Ford Tests Walking Robot Deliveries

May 25, 2019

Walking robots deployed from self-driving vans to deliver mail parcels could soon be seen marching up to homeowners’ doorsteps. The project is the product of a new partnership between Ford Motor and Agility Robotics. The companies are aiming to deploy early next year up to 100 autonomous Ford vehicles carrying a robot that can stand upright and walk from the van to front doors, writes The Wall Street Journal (May 22, 2019).

Agility’s robots—resembling a headless human—have the ability to climb stairs and move across lawns, which should help them deliver packages of up to 40 pounds. The partnership comes as Ford ramps up its ambitions in autonomous transportation with various technologies. In 2017, Ford said it would invest $1 billion in self-driving startup Argo AI over a five-year period. Last year, the company struck a deal with delivery startup Postmates to test self-driving vehicles for delivering groceries.

Few, if any, partnerships with a major U.S. corporation are testing upright delivery robots in public. Some startups and Amazon have been using robot fleets that carry goods inside rolling robots. The Agility-Ford team will focus on mail parcel delivery, though other applications, such as grocery delivery, aren’t ruled out.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What factors might delay the successful rollout of this project?
  2. Why is Ford entering the delivery business?

 

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