The Present and Future of Autonomous Industry

From self-driving vehicles to robot chefs, autonomous systems have already become a crucial part of our lives; with even heavier investments projected across all industries.

The Present and Future of Autonomous Industry
Rise of the Autonomous Industry

Would you believe me if I told you that you could soon be enjoying your favorite dinner at home – farmed, procured, transported and cooked entirely by autonomous systems. With meteoric advancements in (deep) Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), such a dream is not as distant as you might imagine. Many industries across every vertical have now accepted the fact that these technologies could be used to reduce human workforce, drastically increase efficiency, and minimize production cost – three key indices for better and sustainable living in the future.

Starting with the automated production of raw ingredients required for your meal, the answer clearly lies in the bourgeoning industry of autonomous farm equipment. The introduction of driverless tractors and harvesters in the market have seen a surge in their demand, with Goldman Sachs predicting that farm technologies could soon become a $240 billion market and revolutionize the agricultural industry.

Autonomous transportation is, perhaps, the most promising industry that incorporates ML and AI technologies to deliver self-driving vehicles. From tech industry giants like Google and Uber, to automobile manufacturing companies such as BMW, Volvo and Tesla – the race to launch the world’s first commercial self-driving car has been ongoing for a while. As these companies try to figure out several bottlenecks of operating these unmanned cars in an urban environment, self-driving trucks have a better chance of being operational soon. Trucks primarily run on highways, transporting goods and freights over long distances. While truck drivers are legally bound to drive for only 11 hours a day, autonomous trucks could soon haul your raw ingredients overnight from a farm in Idaho to your city in California.

As more people revert to shopping online, the demand for autonomous home delivery systems are also on the rise. Since 2013, Amazon has been testing its indigenous drone delivery project – Prime Air. With automated robots already operational in their warehouses, the launch of Prime Air could get your next shipment delivered to your doorstep without any human involvement in the process. An Indian tech start-up, TechEagle, has vowed to launch its own food delivery drones in the busy cities of India. To circumvent a drone’s inherent problem of delivering heavy payloads, Starship’s six wheeled robots are designed to carry up to 9kg, and are set to roll out in Washington, DC and Redwood City, California in 2018. These autonomous delivery robots, equipped with the latest security features and self-navigating technology, could soon deliver your online ordered raw ingredients at your doorstep.

The home robotics industry specializes in building autonomous domestic robots that perform mundane, daily home-activities like vacuum cleaning, mopping floors, ironing clothes and folding laundry. IBM is currently working on an unmanned robot that can take care of the elderly by monitoring their health and assisting them in daily activities. As for cooking your favorite dinner, Moley Robotics is building the world’s first robotic kitchen that can connect to your ‘smart home’, gather your personalized data, and cook your favorite dinner while you commute back from work.

Due to a shortage of skilled labor and perennial issues regarding worker safety, the construction and mining industry has started implementing unmanned heavy machinery. In October 2017, Build Robotics launched an autonomous self-learning construction equipment that excavates and digs foundations for buildings on its own. Eliminating the need for humans to work in the hazardous mining environment, heavy equipment giants, Caterpillar, have deployed more than 5000 autonomous haul trucks to mines throughout the world – achieving 20% greater production than manned trucks.

Last but definitely not the least, the healthcare industry has seen a surge in the demand for AI based autonomous robots. Not only are they economical in carrying out repetitive tasks like X-ray and CT-Scan, but also they have been found to out-perform (human) doctors in accurately diagnosing patients by monitoring their health and analyzing abnormal symptoms. CB Insights estimate that the healthcare industry will spend an average of $54 million on AI projects by 2020.

Unmanned systems have spread its tentacles across every industry at present, with the trend only projected to increase over time. Humans have realized the potential to build machines that use ML and AI technologies to self-learn and become autonomous in the process. As all industries keep splashing large sums of money to build such systems, one could only speculate as to how far reaching it could reach.