The SAFERUN experiment aims at developing and implementing a new planning methodology for Laser Guided Vehicles (LGV). Such vehicles, which are largely used in industrial environments for the autonomous transportation of huge loads, share their workspace with several independent agents, like other LGVs or humans. For efficiency, but also for safety reason, LGVs move along pre-specified path segments. This implies that they can not skip unexpected obstacles placed along their route: collisions are normally avoided through the execution of emergency stops. The drawback of this approach is that, in the absence of a thorough study, collisions can only be avoided by greatly reducing the average vehicle speeds: evidently, the plant productivity is negatively affected by such commonly used strategy.
The new planning method proposed for the SAFERUN project aims at improving the safety standards in LGV plants — such to preserve the physical integrity of human coworkers — by simultaneously increasing the plant productivity. This goal will be reached by providing the LGVs with autonomous velocity planning capabilities, thus making them reactive with respect to unexpected events. The velocity references will be obtained by solving, at run-time, a constrained nonlinear optimisation problem in which, for the first time ever, constraints deriving from safety concerns are directly accounted for. The project was conceived not only in terms of the design of new plants, but also having in mind the modernisation of existing ones, which safety standards and productivity performances would be consequently increased.
The project descends from a collaboration between the Dip. di Ingegneria dell’Informazione of the University of Parma, the Elettric80 company, a worldwide known producer of LGV vehicles, and the PreGel company, which warehouse will be used for testing the novel navigation system.