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Switzerland is showing the potential of autonomous driving systems. There, driverless freight trains and heavy goods vehicles are set to revolutionize freight traffic in the next ten years. Underground emission-free transport systems will supply supermarkets and other recipients, making roads full of trucks a thing of the past.

While transport robots have been commonplace in factory halls and warehouses for years, they were restricted to dedicated tracks or pre-defined routes until now. Guiding systems like these will be redundant in future thanks to innovative navigation systems, sensors and cameras. Control computers evaluate process data in real time, compare the current location with digital maps and navigate the robots precisely and flexibly through the shelf systems.

Warehouse logistics 4.0

The Institute of Integrated Production in Hannover (IPH) and Jungheinrich AG will show their vision of the future of forklifts at HANNOVER MESSE 2016. Their co-developed reach truck uses 3D cameras to navigate warehouses without guidance or predefined routes. It is controlled via voice commands and gestures: The lift truck not only understands instructions like “Stack this pallet in Shelf 5,” it can even see which pallet the employee is pointing to.

Audi is one of the first automotive manufacturers worldwide to test autonomous transport systems in parts of its internal logistics systems. Robots transport goods autonomously to pickers, reaching speeds of up to 3.6 kilometers per hour. They lift shelves up to 600 kilograms in weight and carry them to the picking station automatically. One advantage of this is that the driverless transport system makes do with narrow driveways. That means that shelves can be placed far closer together, which has allowed Audi to reduce its warehouse space by roughly one quarter.

Danger from unencrypted vehicle data

Even though driverless transport systems are so successful, experts are keen to curb the enthusiasm. The systems are relatively easy to hack as effective security mechanisms have yet to be developed. Anyone who can take over the control computer can make the vehicles do whatever they want. There are enough backdoors where malware can slip in unnoticed, for example when the tire control system sends unencrypted data to the control computer. However, even encrypted data communication is not one hundred percent secure. As a result, security has to improve before the dream of extensive autonomous transport systems can come true.

You can see how far driverless transport systems can take us at HANNOVER MESSE. Share ideas, see the best driverless systems in action and meet new contacts at leading trade fair Industrial Automation with the special Application Park Robotics, Automation & Vision exhibition .