How autonomous are today’s industrial systems?

How autonomous are today’s industrial systems?

Can a production facility’s level of autonomy be compared to the levels of autonomy now generally accepted for vehicles? Far from being an apples-and-oranges comparison, these two application areas share a world of similarities – thus shedding light on the meaning of autonomy itself.

Everybody’s talking about autonomous systems as they apply to cars. But what’s the status of these systems in industry? While the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established very clear definitions of the five levels of autonomy, similar definitions in the field of industrial automation are yet to be set. Nevertheless, these two application areas can be readily compared.

But just to avoid confusion, it must be clear that automation and autonomous systems are two substantially different animals. Simply put, autonomous systems are characterized by the ability to act independently of direct human control, whereas automated systems are not.

ABB Review, Edition 03/2019

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