Humanoid Robots to Help Build BMWs

The automaker will use Figure’s humanoid robots in its Spartanburg, South Carolina facility

Graham Hope

January 19, 2024

3 Min Read
A group of three Figure 01 humanoid robots

U.S.-developed humanoid robots are set to help in the production of the Ultimate Driving Machines.

California-based AI robotics company Figure has confirmed that it has agreed a deal that will see German automaker BMW use its general-purpose robots in car manufacturing.

Figure will initially investigate how the robots should best be utilized, before their first official deployment at the manufacturer’s huge facility at Spartanburg, South Carolina, which is responsible for the X3, X4, X5, X6, X7 and XM.

It is understood that Figure’s 01 robot will perform a limited number of jobs at first, and although it is still to be determined what these will be, the company says they will be geared towards the automation of “difficult, unsafe or tedious” tasks that are less appealing for human workers.

This will free up employees to concentrate on processes that cannot be automated, as well as bring improvements in production efficiency.

A video posted recently on YouTube provides an idea of the capabilities of the 01 robot.

It demonstrates how using AI end-to-end neural networks, Figure was able to train the robot how to make a cup of coffee in just 10 hours, with the added capability of self-correcting mistakes.

According to Figure, the decision to make its robot so closely resemble a person was a straightforward one. “We’ve designed our world for the human form,” it explains. “Hands allow us to open doors and use tools; arms and legs allow us to move efficiently, climb stairs, lift boxes and more.

Related:Humanoid Robot Walks for First Time

“Figure 01 brings together the dexterity of the human form and cutting-edge AI to go beyond single-function robots.”

This, Figure claims, makes it well-suited to operate in manufacturing, logistics, warehousing and retail. At Spartanburg, its roles are likely to be fairly simple at first, such as loading or unloading items or moving things from one place to another. 

However, its ability to learn means its skill set and usefulness will expand over time.

“Single-purpose robotics have saturated the commercial market for decades, but the potential of general-purpose robotics is completely untapped,” said Brett Adcock, Figure’s founder and CEO.

“Figure’s robots will enable companies to increase productivity, reduce costs and create a safer and more consistent environment. We look forward to working side-by-side with BMW Manufacturing to integrate AI and robotics into automotive production.”

Beyond the deployment of the Figure 01, the pair have committed to exploring further solutions and Dr. Robert 

Related:Intel Backs Figure Robotics with $9M

Engelhorn, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing added: “BMW Manufacturing is committed to integrating innovative technologies in our production systems to drive our future forward as an industry leader and innovator.”

It has not been confirmed how many robots will be deployed, but it’s understood the aim is for the first to be operational in around a year.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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