As of late, autonomous vehicles (or self-driving cars) have found themselves center stage within the media. Companies like Nissan are working to get human error out of the equation when it comes to auto accidents. Even Uber is looking to get rid of humans for both financial and sufficiency reasons.

Automation was invented around 1920 but was not widely used in factories or warehouses until 1947 when Ford decided that it would be ideal for making consistent motor vehicles and saving the company a little money. Today, every major factory in the world uses some type of automation in one way or another.

However, distribution centers really aren’t known for their autonomous workers. If you you were to walk into a warehouse today, nine times out of ten you’ll see nothing but dozens of humans lifting boxes, loading or unloading trucks, and driving forklifts.

The last of these is already changing in a select few warehouses thanks to un-manned forklifts. It can be a scary to think that a nine ton vehicle with iron spears at the front is racing around a warehouse with no intelligent supervision, but there is a brain in there.


The GP8 Series 6

The concept isn’t new by any means, because we have had automated guided vehicles (AGVs) working in warehouses for years. However, AGVs are rather Flintstonian in comparison because they work like a remote controlled car. They need to be loaded, sent on their way, and unloaded by people.

The GP8 Series 6 is completely automated and can move around the warehouse without any direction or assistance from man. The GP8 can approach a pallet, lift it, transport it safely, and put it where it needs to go. The GP8 is developed by Seegrid, who is no stranger to automated factory workers.

It accomplishes this thanks to its five cameras which provide a full 360 degree of sight to ensure it will safely travel around the warehouse without changing its infrastructure. When you combine the GP8’s stereoscopic cameras with a warehouses lighting levels, it really is an exceptional worker.

Though this new employee is still in a pre-order phase, it has about 725,000 miles of experience under its belt for companies such as Amazon, GM, and Whirlpool. That is a lot of work and is impressive when you take into account that it has had zero reported accidents.

Zero loss means more savings

“Our autonomous vehicles specialize in helping human workers haul extremely heavy loads of materials around the facility floor, making the whole system more efficient,” said Jeff Christensen, Vice President of Product at Seegrid.

The automated forklift has a number of benefits like less man hours being paid, lower number of accidents, and so far no lost revenue due to damage. If this continues and a wide variety of warehouses distributing different products can utilize this then products could end up being cheaper or at the very least provide the country with more tax revenue.

These un-manned forklifts could also be helpful with dangerous materials such as toxic waste or biochemicals. In these cases, the cost of safety and sanitation far outweighs the price of man hours and an automatic forklift could help.

Forklift drivers are some of the highest paid workers in factories and warehouses aside from their managers and in some cases earn more than our police force. It would be extremely beneficial to our pockets if we could eliminate this field. The next step would be to make all forklifts 100% electric.