(NationalUSNews.com) — The auto industry has been heavily reliant on what are sometimes called single-purpose robotics for decades. The huge machines that look like robotic arms with hand-like clamps at the end look very intimidating and effective. They are effective, but there are many jobs that some industry professionals believe more agile humanoid robots could do in automotive factories, increasing both safety and efficiency. California-based robotics company Figure has signed a deal with BMW to introduce their 5’6, 130-pound multi-use humanoid robots into their work force.
The deployment of Figure’s robots into BMW’s factories will be multi-phased. The first phase will be focused on identifying what they are calling “initial use” cases for the robots. Essentially, this means they will be figuring out what tasks they could best be used for. Figure claims that their robots could enable better automation for tasks that are unsafe, difficult, or tedious. While a Figure spokesperson says those tasks are not being announced publicly yet, BMW spokespeople say they are still “investigating concepts.”
The second phase will start after they’ve decided the best way to use the Figure robots and will consist of deploying them to BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina, manufacturing facility. The BMW spokespeople said they do not currently have a timetable for when that will happen. However, Figure spokespeople have expressed the hope that their robots will be performing in BMW manufacturing sometime in 2024.
While several companies are working on getting humanoid robots into the workforce, some people believe that automakers like BMW are particularly incentivized to accelerate these attempts by the recent United Auto Workers Union’s new contract with General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, which included a 25% wage increase over the course of four years. Toyota and Hyundai also raised their wages to reflect new industry demands. While the robots are expensive and their usefulness is still uncertain, some say their incorporation into manufacturing will help offset the rising cost of labor.
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