From the technical committee of the VDI (Association of German Engineers), automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are described as internal, floor-bound systems with automatically controlled transport vehicles. “Automated guided vehicles, or AGVs for short, are location-based, transport goods within an application area and are guided without contact. A typical field of application is intralogistics. There, AGVs are used, for example, by general cargo manufacturers and on assembly lines in mass production.”

Due to demands for short throughput times, low inventories and high flexibility, the internal material flow is becoming increasingly important as an integrative element in companies. A high degree of flexibility can be achieved with the use of automated guided vehicles. The following video from Amazon Kiva shows how driverless transport systems are moving in intralogistics:


AGVs – practical example Amazon Kiva: Amazon, for example, shows that intralogistics is banking on driverless technology. The company injected $775 million into warehouse robotics manufacturer Kiva Systems in 2015. In the meantime, Kiva Systems belongs completely to Amazon. According to its own information, the mail-order giant wants to increase the productivity of its employees by a factor of four. In practice, the driverless and orange Kiva robots independently find the ordered goods, fetch the appropriate packaging and bring both to the warehouse worker. The prerequisite for smooth AGV use: Incoming goods, picking, packaging, outgoing goods are stations in a logistics chain that are planned down to the smallest detail. Every shelf, every machine location and every article are prescribed and, more importantly, recorded locally as well as by software. This is made possible by fixed routes and navigation systems that are used to navigate the transport vehicles to their destinations. Target setting, data exchange is carried out via a material flow control system.

Logistics companies like Still are even one evolutionary step further. There, experts are talking about dynamic capabilities that correspond to a self-adaptation of the AGV. “In the future, every Still vehicle will have digital map material of the respective warehouse. Every change, no matter how small, will be automatically fed to the AGV,” said Volker Viereck, Advance Development Still GmbH, at the 2015 Material Flow Congress in Munich.” The special feature: “By means of a camera, sensor technology, and precisely this map material, it is possible for the vehicle to move without RFIDor magnets through the halls. Via special networking with other vehicles, warehouse tasks can happen cooperatively and completely autonomously but also together with humans.” The latter does not yet work on public roads.

AGV: Driverless on public roads

However, if we project AGV technology from intralogisticsonto the road, the existing technical possibilities are still limited. Thus, current AGV technology moves in an automated GRID. The routes in the warehouse are clearly defined and predictable for the vehicles. If, on the other hand, human and animal subjects share the road with driverless systems, the autonomous vehicle has to deal with unpredictable disruptive factors. The human brain, for example, is so complex and has not really been thoroughly researched to date; it has by no means been adapted by supercomputers – merely digitally plagiarized. Unpredictable events remain incomprehensible to a computer system, not real and impossible to map to the situation. A human brain can do this thousands of times a day. Car manufacturer Porscheis also skeptical towards this technology. E-mobility yes, but: “It’s as tempting as a Rolex for boiling eggs. You want to drive a Porsche yourself,” says Oliver Blume, Porsche CEO.

Automated guided vehicles and the VDI

The guidelines VDI 2510, VDI 2710, VDI 4451 and VDI 4452, distributed over 16 documents, reflect current specifications for automated guided vehicles. This includes, for example, information on the following areas:

  • System safety of AGVs
  • Inspection and acceptance rules of AGVs
  • Checklist as planning aid for operators and manufacturers of AGVs
  • AGV compatibility

Automated guided vehicles usually consist of the following components:

  • Driverless transport vehicles
  • Master controller
  • Location and situational awareness capabilities
  • Data transmission devices
  • Infrastructure and peripheral facilities

For more information, see Ant Algorithm and Information in Intralogistics.

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