Autonomous vehicles began in the Material Handling Industry

Cropped on AGV

AGV’s, or Automatic Guided Vehicles, have been providing solutions in the materials handling business for many years. With the advent of autonomous vehicles hitting our roadways in the coming years, the story of the AGV is an important one.

The very first autonomous guided vehicle was a modified towing tractor that was used to pull a trailer and follow an overhead wire in a grocery warehouse in 1953. In the 60’s towing AGV’s were in operation in multiple industries and by the 70’s they became widespread because of their multi-faceted abilities as a transportation device, work platform, and a link in the controls and information systems for the factory they were placed in.

Today AGV’s are everywhere in the handling industry often times replacing forklifts, tuggers and even people as the preferred means to move product through a warehouse or assembly-line. As the technology which drives AGV’s improves, it’s not hard to see that these applications have been imagined outside of the warehouse and onto our streets.

In the material handling industry safety has been a major consideration from the beginning and has only become more and more measured as liability and worker moral are taken into account. Ergonomics have also rewritten how employees are effected by the work they do. Autonomous guided vehicles offer both safety and ergonomics eliminating the pushing and pulling of heavy carts and when outfitted with lifting equipment AGV’s assist in alleviating unnecessary back and leg trauma by eliminating bending and lifting.

AGV’s are powered by powerful electric batteries, removing fossil fuels from the equation offering a cleaner environment for employees to work in. The Green angle is one that has been trending for years and AGV’s have lead the charge. The argument to employ an AGV system in your warehouse or manufacturing facility is only becoming more and more feasible with costs falling and safety on the rise where they are currently applied.

With laser guidance and motion detection as well as zero radius turning, programmable speeds and the ability to follow magnetic tape; AGV’s have never been more in demand around the world.

From that first imagined tow tractor on an overhead wire to fully autonomous driverless vehicles on our roads; the AGV has come a long way and is arguably one of the most influential ideas that will take us into a new age of safety everywhere, not just in our warehouses and manufacturing facilities, but in everyone’s daily life.

An interesting article on autonomous vehicles and the pros and cons can be found here.