As the technology for autonomous vehicles and mobile robots continues to advance, it can benefit warehouses, factories, and distribution centers. Seegrid Corp. yesterday announced the release of Series 8 of its Palion Tow Tractor, which includes its updated Smart Path guidance system.
Over the past year, the Pittsburgh-based company has been adding artificial intelligence capabilities to its Palion Pallet Truck and Palion Lift autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Seegrid said its commitment to innovation and safety help it stand out in an increasingly competitive AMR market.
Jeff Christensen, vice president of product at Seegrid, answered the following questions from Robotics 24/7:
What does Seegrid mean by saying that the Palion Tow Tractor has “enhanced understanding”—what can the Series 8 do that its predecessors couldn't?
Christensen: Palion Tow Tractor Series 8 is an upgraded version of Seegrid’s automated tow tractor, which features enhanced Smart Path technology. This technology increases the robotic fleet’s ability to comprehend and make decisions while safely and reliably moving material in dynamic, high-traffic facilities.
Jeff Christensen, Seegrid
The enhanced Smart Path technology combines state-of-the-art sensors—3D lidar and forktip sensors, among others— that we fuse with our computer vision system to give Palion AMRs an understanding of their path. It includes overlapping fields of view to detect objects both in the front of the tow tractor and on both sides of it, providing Palion Tow Tractor Series 8 with a 360° view of its immediate surroundings.
Palion Tow Tractor Series 8 also shares the same chassis as the Palion Pallet Truck Series 8, providing a lower mast height than previous models - 60 in. versus 78 in.— enabling additional customer workflows, particularly in areas with low height clearance.
Seegrid has an enviable safety record, with no incidents in 5 million miles —why did you decide to improve the Smart Path algorithm, and how long did it take?
Christensen: Seegrid has been committed to innovation and safety since its founding. Our computer vision technology, sensor fusion algorithms, and data exhaust capture have been continuously refined for more than a decade. Our Smart Path algorithm builds on Seegrid’s proven track record of delivering mobile automation technology that boosts both productivity and safety.
As part of those efforts, Seegrid recently launched Blue Labs, an internal R&D group, to build on the company’s spirit of innovation and continue delivering the most advanced, reliable, and holistic AMR solutions to help our customers safely increase productivity and remain competitive.
What sort of feedback has Seegrid received from customers looking for vision system improvements?
Christensen: Seegrid’s customers are increasingly looking for complete, holistic automation solutions that address their business needs, including AMRs that have more human-like situational awareness of the space around them.
Seegrid’s Smart Path technology enables our AMRs to help solve problems in real-world, live production environments. The technology developments we make in Blue Labs will also accelerate these efforts.
Will the upgrades be applied to Seegrid's lift trucks and other vehicles, or do the latest ones already include them?
Christensen: Smart Path is standard on Palion Tow Tractor Series 8, Palion Pallet Truck Series 8, and Palion Lift.
While this was developed before the creation of Blue Labs, is this the sort of advance it will be working on?
Christensen: Blue Labs will rapidly develop and integrate new technologies for use in future Seegrid product releases, and the projects they are working on will involve advances across all our product lines.
Will the Series 8 Tow Tractors have a measurable difference in uptime or utilization because of these improvements?
Christensen: Today, global leaders in logistics, e-commerce, and manufacturing leverage Seegrid intelligent automation algorithms through mobile robots and enterprise software to drive efficiency, reduce cost, and improve safety. With greater robotic situational awareness enabled by Smart Path, Seegrid Palion AMRs continue to help businesses in the supply chain network remain agile while ensuring flow of goods is both steady and safe.
Will Smart Path and the Series 8 tractors feed more data to fleet management or AI systems?
Christensen: Seegrid Palion AMRs capture data every centimeter of their journey—leveraged by sophisticated machine learning techniques to continuously increase the understanding and capability of the robotic fleet.
Data exhaust is captured by Fleet Central—Seegrid’s enterprise software platform—offering human users powerful insights to further maximize performance. With vital information about the status and performance of the Palion AMR fleet at their fingertips, customers can ensure that material flow of their facilities is fully optimized.
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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