Autonomous Vehicles: They’re Here to Stay
December 8, 2021
Expected Exponential Growth in Automation
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “autonomous vehicles”?
Odds are your mind conjured up a vision of a futuristic car gliding along a highway while the occupants relaxed, read a book, watched a movie, or caught up on work.
Most likely, your imagination didn’t think of a wheeled, robot-like machine bustling around a warehouse, picking orders, and loading them onto a truck for transport. If that sounds like something out of a George Lucas film, think again.
This is no longer a far-off future. It’s the latest technology being used across U.S. industries, and it’s growing at an astounding rate. According to MarketsandMarkets, the autonomous guided vehicle (AGV) market is projected to grow from 2.2 billion in 2021 to 3.2 billion by 2026!
And while this market is seeing exponential growth now, Electro Soft has been actively developing in this sector since 2000 for our partners, one of which is a global leader in this sector, and we’re excited about the potential of automation for all industries!
Leaning on Automation during a Labor Shortage
Even as this is written, the technology behind autonomous vehicles is rapidly changing. With the labor shortage crisis, more and more companies are looking for automated solutions.
According to Modern Materials Handling Magazine, “Labor is less abundant than what most warehouse and manufacturing managers need or would like. Skilled labor is even scarcer. And way too much of the time spent by workers out on the floor is travel time, simply moving items from point A to point B. That’s not generally the best use of resources, and it’s usually when the conversation moves to some form of automation.”
This search for efficiency is furthering innovation in this revolutionary space. But not at all automated vehicles are the same. Let’s break down the different types of robotics being utilized, particularly in manufacturing and distribution sectors.
Types of Automated Vehicles
Autonomous Guided Vehicles
AGVs — also called LGVs or Laser Guided Vehicles — have been in use for decades. One of the earliest models was deployed in 1982 for use in a former EPCOT attraction called Universe of Energy at Walt Disney World.
Companies, most notably Amazon, have been taking advantage of AGV technology in their warehouses. They usually rely on lasers, wires, or magnetic sensors, stick to predetermined paths, and often need human intervention.
On the other hand, autonomous vehicles use advanced computer guidance systems, cameras, and other sensors to move independently. The only human assistance required is programming.
Think of them like a Roomba on steroids, or, if you’re a Star Wars fan, a wheeled version of a labor droid, not quite like R2-D2 but not an assembly line robot either. Newer attractions like Rise of the Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios use this technology.
Autonomous Mobile Robots
Autonomous Mobile Robots, or AMRs, are also referred to as bots. They are generally smaller in size than AGVs, carry less weight, but they can move autonomously around obstacles.
Automatic Guided Carts
Automatic Guided Carts are just as the name suggests. They are wheeled carts that move autonomously across a warehouse floor, following a computer-controlled, predetermined route or taped pattern on the ground.
Our Role in Automation
You may be wondering what role an electronics manufacturer like Electro Soft plays in developing this new technology. Good question! We build the electromechanical assemblies used in autonomous vehicles.
These projects require careful attention to detail because each component must meet very exact specifications. Because of our extensive work and tenured history in the defense sector, we were able to step into this space seamlessly to meet increasing demand.
This is truly cutting-edge technology that’s modernizing U.S. industry. And by outsourcing this portion of the project to Electro Soft Inc., manufacturing engineers are able to devote their time to other aspects of the autonomous vehicles. This creates greater efficiency and cost effectiveness for our customers.
Your AV Projects
With this growing demand for automated solutions in manufacturing and distribution, do you have AV projects in your pipeline? Let’s start a conversation today about how we can save you time and money while delivering the highest quality components!