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Smart control centres for transport robots

Automated vehicles are becoming increasingly important components in our transport systems. This applies to local public transport as well as goods transport in intralogistics. Smart control of these vehicles is crucial for their efficient use. This is where the TaBuLa-LOGplus research project comes in, in which KION is on board as an associated partner.


While a colourful potpourri of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous driving systems are already being used more or less successfully on the streets of Los Angeles, things are still a little more leisurely on German roads. Although automated shuttles are used in some cities as a supplement to public transport, they still have to be accompanied by natural persons, known as operators, for legal and safety reasons - just like transport robots. The economic advantage over manually controlled vehicles is therefore still not realised.

To remedy this situation, experts at Hamburg University of Technology are currently researching the development of a smart control centre that aims to monitor and optimise the use of autonomous vehicles in a wide variety of scenarios. KION Group AG is advising the project team on research issues in the field of mobile robotics and providing feedback on current technical developments.

TaBuLa-LOGplus is already the second follow-up project in the TaBuLa project series. In the first project, a test centre for the use of automated buses was set up on the streets of Lauenburg an der Elbe. The second project focussed on the combined transport of passengers and goods in automated shuttles.

What is th meaning of "TaBuLa-LOGplus"?

TaBuLa is the abbreviation for "Test centre for autonomous buses in the district of Herzogtum Lauenburg". Tests for the use of automated or autonomous buses were carried out in the test environment in the district of Herzogtum Lauenburg. The suffix "LOG" stands for the integration of a logistics component in the form of a transport robot. The "plus" denotes the third phase of the project, in which the networking and coordination of the various vehicles is to be created by a central control centre.

Making decisions with AI

The current research project now centres on the use of an AI that "gives eyes" to the transport robot locally and in real time. The smart control centre is designed to help the robot make direct and rational decisions on site.

Dr. Johannes Hickeldeyn, Global Research Manager at Robotic Systems Development at STILL, is in close contact with the research team on behalf of the KION GROUP. He explains: "A large amount of data is analysed and processed in real time. For example, AI systems can use sensors and cameras to record and analyse the truck's surroundings, such as current traffic, weather or road conditions."

They can also use historical data to make predictions and decisions based on past experience.

In addition, AI systems can also react to human behaviour patterns. For example, an autonomous vehicle that recognises a pedestrian stepping onto the road can immediately perform emergency braking to avoid a collision.

The aim of such AI systems for autonomous vehicles should be to adapt to the constantly changing conditions on the road and make quick, precise and safe decisions, taking into account the different levels of automation that describe the tasks a vehicle can perform. In (highly) automated driving (level 3), for example, the vehicle only takes control and monitors the journey in selected situations. With fully automated (level 4) or autonomous driving (level 5), on the other hand, the vehicle takes over the entire control and monitoring of the journey in all situations. The passengers therefore become passengers.

The project, which is scheduled to run for two years, is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport, among others, as it is about "a future-proof, sustainable mobility system through automated driving and networking". In addition to the KION GROUP and other local companies, the Hamburg University of Technology, the Institute of Technical Logistics (ITL) and the Institute of Transport Planning and Logistics (VPL) as well as the district of Herzogentum Lauenburg and the city of Lauenburg are also on board.

Automation is becoming increasingly important in intralogistics

With the design of the smart control centre for autonomous vehicles and transport robots, research into the optimal use of the AI algorithm and the further development of the transport robot, the research project is therefore also extremely interesting for intralogistics companies such as KION. This is because the digitalisation of logistics processes has gained enormous importance in the industry in recent years.

Work processes can already be made more efficient and flexible through the use of autonomous technologies. The automatic identification and localisation of goods and means of transport enables better planning and control of transport processes and reduces the error rate at the same time.

Transport robots can also increase occupational safety if they take on dangerous or physically demanding tasks and thus reduce the risk of injury.

At the end of this year, the researchers expect results on the possibilities of monitoring the transport robots via the control centre, as well as on the synchronisation of the different vehicles in the test network. The transport robot will be able to enter and exit the bus independently and the data from the robot set will be recorded and analysed in a 3D open source.