Global Courant 2023-05-19 11:00:43
Autonomous robot cars may be the next big thing, but robotic mechanics are right behind them.
RoboTire is a new technology that can change all four tires on a car two to three times faster than a human alone. But it still requires a human touch – for now.
After a vehicle drives onto the device’s platform, artificial intelligence-driven machine vision identifies the wheels, sees the cams, and guides the robotic arms to loosen and remove the nuts or wheel bolts, then pulls the wheels and tires off.
- Advertisement -
It then passes them to a Hunter tire changing machine, where it relays tire size and type information so it is ready to change the tires.
AI-POWERED CRUISE CONTROL CAN STOP TRAFFIC STOPS BEFORE THEY START
RoboTire uses robotic arms to work on a car while it is parked on a platform. (RoboTire)
A human technology helps transition between the two, loads the new tire into the changer and monitors the operation, but Michigan-based RoboTire founder and CEO Victor Darolfi said the company is working on developing the system to be completely autonomous.
Darolfi told Fox News Digital that the whole process can be completed in 23 minutes, and it gets faster and faster as the machine continues to learn through AI.
- Advertisement -
“It’s mainly training our machine vision system, every movement is guided by this,” said Darolfi.
RoboTire already has a large library of information about vehicle types, wheel sizes and bolt patterns, and can draw on that whenever it encounters a new one.
The arms are equipped with wrenches that can accommodate different cams. (RoboTire)
- Advertisement -
“Someone may come in with a new rim combination that the robot hasn’t seen yet, but since we’re constantly retraining our models, the robot can go ahead and not get stuck,” said Darolfi.
“How we handle the variability is our secret sauce.”
The company has four stores that use RoboTire, and when one of them learns something new, it shares it with the others.
“It figures it out on its own, calls back home, and then we repeat our models every week to build confidence levels,” explains Darolfi.
The arm also has fingers that can grip the wheel and tire to move them to the tire changing station. (RoboTire)
It can work even if the conditions are not perfect.
“What if there’s mud on the tire or snow in the wheel well? As long as it can see an edge of the lug nut, it can find it,” Darolfi said. “It’s like looking through the forest. The AI helps us see the forest and the machine vision allows us to identify the tree.”
RoboTire uses machine learning to figure out how to work on cars never seen before. (RoboTire)
RoboTire has not publicly announced the exact price, but offers it as an all-inclusive “robot as a service” subscription at various rates that take into account local salaries. Darolfi said most operators will see payback within a year thanks to lower labor costs and increased production.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE FOX NEWS AUTOS NEWSLETTER
Together with retail giant Discount Tire it will also be used by a Creamery Tirea small chain in the Philadelphia area that makes 80 to 100 tires a day at each location and has great success with the one RoboTire it has.
Owner Rich Shainline told Fox News Digital that it has helped the company deal with the ongoing labor shortage.
Creamery Tire said the technology has helped during the ongoing labor shortage. (RoboTire)
“Our main thing is we need to move the product, and I can put one guy on it instead of two,” said Shainline. “It’s not 100 percent, but there are very few vehicles that can’t handle it. And RoboTire has been a blast to work with.”
Darolfi said his company is already testing its use on other wheeled vehicles, such as side-by-side UTVs, and that the company is working on additional features it is not ready to reveal yet, including inspections.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“Imagine what you can do in and around the tire and in and around where the tires come off the vehicle,” he said.
Gary Gastelu is Fox News Digital’s automotive editor.