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Seegrid warehouse robots cross million-mile threshold accident-free

Aaron Aupperlee
| Thursday, April 12, 2018, 12:45 p.m.
The Seegrid robot is put to work at the Giant Eagle Warehouse in the West End on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Seegrid robot is put to work at the Giant Eagle Warehouse in the West End on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

A Pittsburgh-area autonomous vehicle company has breached the million-mile threshold.

But you won't see these robots roaming around the city's streets.

Seegrid announced this week its fleet of self-driving robots logged 1 million miles in warehouses, distribution center and factories around the country.

And the robots didn't harm any humans along the way.

"It means that this stuff works," said Jeff Christensen, Seegrid's vice president of product.

Christensen said Seegrid is the first autonomous material handling company to reach 1 million miles.

"Nobody else is even in the ballpark," Christensen said.

The company has been tracking miles for the past four years, and no test miles were included in the final count, Christensen said. Seegrid has a fleet of about 500 robots in use.

The Findlay-based company makes self-driving pallet jacks, tuggers and other factory and warehouse vehicles. The vehicles have a suite of sensors, cameras and lasers to detect obstacles and operate on programmed routes.

A person is killed every three days in a forklift accident and nearly 35,000 people a year are seriously injured, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Giant Eagle, which invested $25 million in Seegrid in 2016 and is the majority shareholder in the company, uses Seegrid robots in its Pittsburgh warehouse. Amazon, General Motors, Whirlpool, Boeing and others also use Seegrid bots.

The robots don't have the luxury of traveling 60 to 70 mph on the freeway to rack up the miles, Christensen said. It took Google's self-driving car program six years to reach 1 million miles. It hit 5 million in February. Uber logged its first million miles in September and its second million about 100 days later.

Seegrid's robots, however, move at a walking pace in short distances around warehouses and factories.

"But they work all day," Christensen said. "They will work three shifts so they will just keep going and going."

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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