Announcing the Ford built autonomous robot. It’s one of the company’s newest employees at a factory in Spain
- The Ford Motor manufacturing plant in Valencia has a new delivery employee — an autonomous robot named “Survival.”
- The self-driving robot uses lidar (light detection and ranging) technology to visualize its surroundings and deliver spare parts.
As per Ford, the “Survival” robot navigates autonomously around a body plant in Valencia, Spain, delivering spare parts and welding material just in time and negotiating obstacles on its way.
Eduardo García Magraner, manufacturing manager at the Valencia factory, said, “We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate, when it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring at it as it went by; now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”
Ford says the Survival robot, entirely developed in-house, can figure out new routes if the chosen path is blocked. There’s no GPS assist, as Survival has learned the Valencia plant by heart. “We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor, so together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate,” says García Magraner.
Survival is a hybrid of “Wall-E” and a filing cabinet looks wise, contains an automated shelving system with 17 slots for different key parts. Each operator at a given work station around the factory can only open the slot allocated to them, to weed out any chance of the wrong part being handed over at the wrong time at the wrong part of the factory.
According to research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development almost half of the world’s jobs face some risk of being automated. A Brookings Institution report warns that a quarter of Americans are at high risk of losing their jobs to automation. Workers in food services, manufacturing, administrative support, farming, transportation and construction have the greatest likelihood of being replaced by robots.
According to the Robotic Industries Association, 35,880 robots were shipped to the U.S., Canada and Mexico last year, with 53% going to the automotive industry. In 2018, a record number of robots were put to work in North America.
Allaying any such fears of Survival causing job losses, Ford said workers at the Valencia plant don’t need to fear Survival taking their job. The company said delivering spare parts to different areas of the plant is “time consuming and relatively mundane,” adding that Survival saves up to 40 working hours for employees and does not replace anyone on the job.
Eduardo García Magraner further said, “Survival doesn’t directly replace any factory worker, but it enables Ford employees to focus on their actual job, which is building Kugas, Mondeos and S-MAXs. It’s been on trial for almost a year now and has performed faultlessly to-date. It’s become quite a valuable team member. Hopefully we can put it into full-time use shortly and expand into other Ford facilities.”
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