An automaker company, Ford is a few years away from making autonomous vehicles, but they have made a little robot that shows what is possible. The company designed a new robot to work in its factory, it is like a filing cabinet on wheels that delivers spare parts around one of Ford’s manufacturing plants.
The self-driving robot is nicknamed “Survival” just because it is able to adapt its surroundings. It is very first of its kind which frees up to 40-employee hours daily, allowing workers to focus on more complex tasks.
It is able to modify its route after encountering obstacles in its path and also can stop whenever necessary. The self-driving robot uses LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to visualize its surroundings.
“We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate,” said Eduardo García Magraner, engineering manager, at Ford’s state-of-the-art body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, where the robot is being trialed.
“When it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring as it went by. Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”
The robot is equipped with an automated shelf that has 17 slots to hold materials of different weights and sizes. For avoiding any errors, the opening and closing of these slots are automated. That means, operators in each area only have access to the materials assigned to them.
And of course, as usual, the machine is there not to replace workers, it is there to help them and make their life little more interesting. Yes, it is not a big kind of invention, but will definitely make work easier for employees and help saving money.
“It’s been on trial for almost a year now and has performed faultlessly to-date. It’s become quite a valuable team member,” said Garcia Magraner. “Hopefully we can put it into full-time use shortly and expand into other Ford facilities.”