As we continue to see progress made in autonomous driving technology, much of the public's interest has been preoccupied with the prospect of autonomous vehicles hitting the road. Yet six vehicles currently zipping autonomously around a Samsung warehouse in Russia's Kaluga region after being fitted with the "X-MOTION" system show that this technology will also find plenty of applications off the road.
Developed by Russian company RoboCV, X-MOTION is described as an "intellectual pilot system," which replaces a driver with an autopilot system that enables warehouse vehicles to operate autonomously around humans in a warehouse environment.
The system is made up of two parts: a "server-side part," which interacts with the warehouse management system, coordinating distribution of tasks among the vehicles, and a "vehicle-side part," which makes the navigation decisions. As well as following pre-defined paths, the vehicles are able to respond dynamically to changes in the environment, such as a person crossing their path or a fallen pallet.
A video camera and LIDAR (laser radar) – or LIDARs depending on the type of vehicle – mounted on the vehicle capture data about the environment, which is then processed by an on board industrial-grade computer (based on an Intel Core i5/i7 processor) running RoboCV's custom-built 3D-PATH software. This generates instructions that are sent to the guidance system of the vehicle, which controls the steering, accelerator and braking, and directs the vehicle's movement.
Data is constantly transmitted between the vehicle-side and the server-side parts via Wi-Fi, while also enabling communication with other automated vehicles in the network. This is integrated with the warehouse management system to distribute tasks to different vehicles depending on their position, with the aim of reducing trip time and overall efficiency.
The X-MOTION system incorporates a two-tier safety system. The first uses the 3D-PATH software to detect objects in its path, reducing the vehicle's speed to perform a bypass maneuver or come to a complete stop. In case of failure of the first tier, the second tier operates on the basis of a "safety-zone" in front of the vehicle. The LIDAR detects objects which enter the safety zone and sends a signal to a safety control shutting down the vehicle's power in case of emergency. RoboCV says the safety system is certified to European industrial safety standards.
According to RoboCV, the X-MOTION system can be fitted to tow tractors, pallet lifters, forklifts and high-rack stackers, with solutions for stackers and reach tracks currently under development. The company is also planning a full-scale project that aims to robotize the remainder of warehouse vehicles at Samsung's Kaluga factory.
You can see the X-MOTION-fitted vehicles take themselves for a spin in the video below.