Ford self-driving robot helps employees focus on complex projects

Ford has been testing the use an autonomous robot called Survival that enables factory workers to focus on more demanding, complex tasks, the company has revealed. The robot was built by Ford engineers as a way to offload mundane, rote tasks that would otherwise take up engineers' time. The robot is operating at a Ford plant in Spain.

Survival knows the layout of the Ford plant located in Valencia, Spain, the company said in an announcement detailing the robot. The machine wasn't created to replace jobs, but instead to serve human workers by delivering items between stations on its own. Survival features 17 slots for holding materials loaded by human workers.

Ford has been testing Survival for nearly a year, during which time it determined the robot saves about 40 hours' worth of employees' time every day. Without the robot, workers would need to manually deliver parts and materials between stations.

As with some other autonomous machinery, Survival utilizes LiDAR to keep an eye on its surroundings, making it possible for the robot to avoid obstacles and, when necessary, change its direction or take another route. Ford demonstrates this in the video above, where it shows the robot quickly avoiding a person walking toward it as one example.

Engineering manager of Ford's Valencia plant Eduardo Garcia Magraner said, "[Survival has] been on trial for almost a year now and has performed faultlessly to-date. It's become quite a valuable team member." The company anticipates moving the autonomous robot into full-time rotation and potentially expanding it to other facilities.