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Ford, Walmart Team Up For Delivery Robots

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Auto giant Ford Motor Co. (F) has teamed up with Agility Robotics on a robotic project to deliver packages to consumers.

Ford and Agility Robotics have produced a two-legged, two-armed robot, named Digit, to deliver goods from delivery van to consumers' doorstep. Ford is partnering with Walmart, Postmates and Agility to perfect the robot's ability to make deliveries.

"Here's an understatement: People like online shopping," Ken Washington, Ford's chief technology officer, wrote in a Medium blog post. "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."

Digit is built out of lightweight material. It can lift packages that weigh up to 40 pounds and can walk over rough or uneven terrain. The robots would be deployed from delivery vans or trucks and would complete last-mile deliveries.

Ford says it focused on a robot with legs as robots with wheels were not able to reach certain doors. Wheeled robots were being tested through a partnership with FedEx and Starship Technologies.

"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% of homes in the United States are wheelchair-accessible, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development," Washington wrote. "Digit has been designed to walk upright without wasting energy, so it has no issue traversing the same types of environments most people do every day."

Meanwhile, Ford Chairman Bill Ford rejected claims that the U.S. automaker was falling behind its peers in autonomous driving program.

"Our self-driving system, Argo, is incredibly competitive. On the technology side, we are right up there with the very best in terms of time of development but we want to take great care before we let people in these vehicles," Ford said at an auto tech conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday when asked about losing market share.

The automaker bought Argo AI in 2017 and is working with several technology firms including Intel unit Mobileye.

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