Ford autonomous delivery robot named Survival hands out car parts

Navigates the factory floor by itself, steering clear of workers

It's hardly breaking news that there's a robot doing work at a Ford factory, but this one is worth mentioning. Ford's "Survival" robot navigates autonomously around a body plant in Valencia, Spain, delivering spare parts and welding material just in time and negotiating obstacles on its way.

Ford says the Survival robot, entirely developed in-house, can figure out new routes if the chosen path is blocked. There's no GPS assist, as Survival has learned the Valencia plant by heart. "We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor, so together with sensors, it doesn't need any external guides to navigate," says manufacturing manager Eduardo García Magraner.

Survival, which looks like the offspring of "Wall-E" and a filing cabinet, contains an automated shelving system with 17 slots for different key parts. Each operator at a given work station around the factory can only open the slot allocated to them, to weed out any chance of the wrong part being handed over at the wrong time at the wrong part of the factory.

Eduardo García Magraner says the robot's inclusion in the work environment initially made employees feel like they were taking part in a sci-fi movie, causing them to stop and stare at the robot, but things have smoothed out by now. "Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them." And it's best to get used to seeing the robot going around, as it can do 40-hour workweeks. Survival doesn't directly replace any factory worker, but it enables Ford employees to focus on their actual job, which is building Kugas, Mondeos and S-MAXs.

"It's been on trial for almost a year now and has performed faultlessly to-date. It's become quite a valuable team member," said Garcia Magraner. "Hopefully we can put it into full-time use shortly and expand into other Ford facilities." Earlier Ford robot inventions include the charmingly named "Robutt."

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