Driverless vehicles have been one of the uses of automation most widely promised, eagerly awaited, and yet feared. They have been predicted and announced over and over, yet the reality continues to lag far behind the expectations.
Walmart, which has been a leader in adopting automation, has stepped up in this area, too. The first driverless trucks in the country are now on the road between a warehouse and a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Years in the making
Gatik, Walmart’s partner in the effort, has been running these trucks for years with a safety driver and a passenger who can stop the vehicle in an emergency. The passenger is still in the trucks, and there is a safety back up vehicle following along on the seven mile route. The human driver has stepped down, though.
The new supply chain
Grocers are changing their approach following the supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. Shortages of truck drivers were among the issues that made it hard for stores to keep their shelves stocked over the past year and a half.
Now, grocers more often use a hub and spoke arrangement to keep stores full. Instead of long-haul deliveries from suppliers to stores, they rely on local warehouses and daily short-haul deliveries. Gatik’s vehicles are designed for that kind of trip: retailers call it the “middle mile”.
Autonomous trucks could be faster and cheaper than trucks with human drivers. Long-haul trucking is a hard job, too, and driverless trucks could fulfill the promise of automation to take on jobs that are “dangerous, dirty, and dull.”
Rexroth has been involved with driverless vehicles; BMW’s testing rigs for autonomous vehicles are made by Rexroth.
But most of our clients are using Rexroth motion control in their factories or printing presses. We can provide repair, reman, service, and support for Rexroth electric industrial motion control systems. As Rexroth specialists, we can get your facility back up and running fast.