While the auto industry seems to be more and more hypnotized by the prospect of proper self-driving cars taking over the roads, autonomous technology is being rolled out in incremental steps in other areas of the field. BMW has been working on what the company calls Industry 4.0, a new level of technology integration within its plants, that offers help to workers and improves the manufacturing process.
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As an integral part of this new approach, the Germans have developed a new generation of supply trains that now have the ability to navigate around the manufacturing plants on their own, delivering materials for assembly where they are needed. While it all sounds too good to be true, the video posted below is pretty much self-explanatory and a bit creepy if you ask me. Just seeing these trains running around without a person behind the wheel makes me feel like the future is finally here and I may not be ready for it.
According to BMW, these are just the initial prototypes of potential future autonomous trains that will not only go around the plant using predefined routes but will also be able to avoid obstacles and choose different routes, depending on the purpose served. The pilot project is being currently tested in the plants in Berlin, Leipzig and Dingolfing but if the results will prove to be encouraging, other plants will gladly adopt the new trains as well.
On top of self-driving trains, the video also showcases other Industry 4.0 technologies that are currently being used by BMW in its plants. From tablets with a wide array of information for the workers to intelligent glasses and the latest robots that measure even the tiniest discrepancies in terms of production quality, it seems like everything is bound to change in the near future, in terms of human-robot collaboration.