Prestige Audi in Lakewood, Colo., is one of 18 Audi dealers in the U.S. to be part of a pilot program in which a remote-controlled robot will supervise mechanics as they repair vehicles, Jordan Golson reports for Wired. Although “bots playing a role in building cars is nothing new,” as Chris Bruce writes for Autoblog, the Audi Robotic Telepresence (ART) is the first such system that links automakers (in this case, Audi of America headquarters in Herndon, Va.) with technicians at local dealerships, according to Audi. The pilot program will be expanded to 100 dealerships in the near future, Bruce writes.
Bruce goes on to report:
At the moment, ART, as its called, is more R2-D2 than The Terminator. It certainly won’t be doing any wrenching on your A4 anytime soon because it doesn’t even have arms. Instead, the robot comprises a remote-controlled stand with multiple cameras, a microphone and speakers. The bot is operated remotely by Audi Technical Assistance consultants and Technical Field Managers who can talk back-and-forth with mechanics about vehicle service and help to remotely diagnose problems. The droid is even equipped with a handheld camera and borescope to reach into tiny crevices.
As an Audi press release explains, the robot displays the remote operator’s face on a screen as it moves around the vehicle, and remote operators communicate with it via local dealerships’ Wi-Fi connections. The remote technicians use a computer or tablet equipped with a speakerphone to control the robot, Golson writes, noting that similar robots are already in use for educational and medical applications.
The Audi Technical Support team developed the ART concept in partnership with VGo Communications, Inc., in Nashua, N.H., which provides tele-robot solutions for healthcare, education, and the workplace, Audi writes. ART is only a “first step” in Audi dealer telepresence; the Audi Technical Support Team and VGo Communications continue to work on ways to improve the robot’s capabilities, Audi writes. In addition to Colorado, the ART system is being tested in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
A commenter named david.bergman1 posted the following comment below the Autoblog article: “If it improves the consumers experience by reducing time in the shop and creating a higher level of accuracy in terms of identifying and correcting problems, I say thank you for it.”
Here is an Audi video about the robot: