1980-02-01

Robots and Automobiles: Applications, Economics, and the Future 800377

There is a proper love affair between robots and automobiles. Over 55% of the world's industrial robots work in the automobile industry. This paper will explore the relationship; starting with the definition of a robot, proceeding through types available, describing the applications, then considering economic and social justification, and, finally, speculating on what lies in store in the decade of the 1980s.
Victor Hugo spoke of the impossibility of arresting an idea whose time has come. Maybe so, but without the automobile industry it is fair to say that the time of the robot would surely have been postponed. All of the earliest applications of industrial robots were first tested in auto manufacturing plants. Of six or seven thousand industrial robots now in industry, over 55% are employed in building automobiles. Furthermore, as acceptance grows the automobile industry seems to be able to maintain this heavy share of current robot production.
Before pondering why the automobile industry has so keenly nurtured robotics, it might be well to speculate on the definition of a robot. Some definitions, at least two of which are irreverent, are listed in Figure 1.

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