Two-Legged Delivery Robots Walk Upright, Threaten Warehouse Jobs

If artificial intelligence doesn’t steal your job, the bi-pedal Digit robot might. Especially now that’s it up for sale and Ford already a buyer.

Agility Robotics has now sold its first Digit bi-pedal robot and the buyer is Ford. The Digit robot has been seen as one possible solution to what is often referred to as the “last-mile” problem for delivery companies. However, in solving that problem, Digit does raise the issue of what this could potentially mean for human workers in those sectors.

Digit has been in development for some time and is essentially a robot that stands and walks on two new legs. While a bi-pedal robot could be of use in many work placements, it has garnered specific interest from the home and office delivery sectors. The reason being that while self-driving cars are now starting to roll out for deliveries in more locations, they can only get from A to B, not from B to the delivery door. Solutions like Digit have been viewed as a possible fix for this last-mile issue as they could potentially ride in a self-driving car and then complete the delivery on foot. Now, it now looks like Digit has taken the next step on the journey to becoming part of the workforce.

Ahead of the official start of the CES 2020 event in Las Vegas, Ford has not only confirmed Agility Robotics is now selling its Digit robot, but Ford is the first customer and set to receive the first two units off the production line.

What Does Bi-Pedal Digit Robot Mean For U.S. Jobs?

AI in the workplace

How Digit will impact the U.S. job market is one of the biggest concerns robots like it raise. While the initial cost is high for each unit, once purchased it is effectively usable for the lifespan of the robot. What’s more, while the talk of Digit is focused on a solution to the last-mile problem of autonomous vehicle deliveries, the robot is capable of being used in multiple ways and doing multiple jobs. This not only includes outside jobs, but also inside, and in particular, in the warehouse, logistics and manufacturing industries. In this sense, it is possible Digit could become a viable solution for businesses for both the first and last-mile links of the delivery chain. Sorting and packing goods at one end, while out and about delivering them at the other.

For now, however, this is just the most recent step in that journey. While Agility Robotics is now officially selling its Digit robots, it is not understood to be producing them in large quantities. Likewise, there’s no suggestion Ford is planning to immediately deploy its pair of bi-pedal workers. Instead, Ford looks set to continue testing their use as it has been doing since it first partnered with Agility Robotics in early 2019, albeit at the more advanced stage. One example of this is Digit’s ability to communicate and receive information from a self-driving vehicle. As Ford explains, with self-driving vehicles already mapping areas if they can share that mapping data with Digit, then Digit won’t need to map its surroundings to the same degree.


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