EAVP member Kopernikus Automotive is pushing the boundaries of autonomous vehicles, not just on the road, but now in the factory. In collaboration with Ford and the Institute of Automotive Engineering of Technische Universität Braunschweig, they have been working on the E-Self project, testing self-driving electric vehicles within the production process. Several EAVP members attended the project demonstration event in Cologne, Germany, to witness the progress and exchange ideas on future implementation.

The automotive industry is no stranger to automation. Robots have long been a staple on factory floors, boosting productivity and efficiency. The E-Self project takes things a step further in smart manufacturing by integrating self-driving, electric vehicles into the production chain.  The project’s goal is to enhance efficiency in the production process by automating the movements of electric vehicles, which autonomously navigate the assembly line, driving to charging stations, parking themselves, and even preparing for transport out of the factory – all without human intervention.

The project’s innovative approach, based on vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, promises significant gains in efficiency by eliminating one-way trips such as those needed for repairs. Quality and safety are also a crucial aspiration for the project, reached by removing potential driver-related mistakes. Automated vehicles can park themselves precisely within designated areas, eliminating the need for wider spaces to accommodate opening doors. This space optimisation allows for a more compact production layout, ultimately leading to cost savings. The project leverages AVP Type 2 technology, a system where the “intelligence” lies within the infrastructure. Sensors and a central computer system within the factory guide the vehicles, allowing them to safely navigate, charge, and park.

The public presentation at Ford’s Cologne-Niehl plant showcased these capabilities firsthand. Attendees witnessed a captivating demonstration featuring Kopernikus sensors and Ford’s self-driving electric vehicles parking manoeuvres and docking with automated charging stations.

EAVP: Building on the E-Self vision

The project’s successful presentation drew the attention of several EAVP partners who actively participated in discussions following the demonstration. These discussions focused on turning the project’s vision of further automation and optimized parking solutions into reality. Recognizing the project’s strong link to their goals, EAVP members will leverage the learnings to propel discussions forward. This collaborative effort within the EAVP platform, coordinated by ERTICO, will focus on key areas critical to AVP implementation: establishing common standards, shaping European legislation, and crafting a comprehensive deployment roadmap.