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BMW & Its Robots Are Going To Take Your Forklift Cert Away. Good Luck Having A Date Again, Ever.

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Are you having trouble with dating prospects or looking cool for friends? Do you want to gain more social status? Normally, doing things like going to therapy, taking classes and getting that degree, reading self-help books, or getting plastic surgery are the “go to” solution in today’s image-obsessed world, but if you feel comfortable believing internet memes, there’s a better way: forklift certification.

A common “forklift certified” meme, caught in the wild. Fair Use.

There are many, many other examples, but the point of nearly all of them is that you’ll have much better dating prospects if you’re forklift certified.

But I have bad news for the guys out there in that oh-so-exclusive club of certified operators who are never lonely on Friday night. A recent press release from BMW shows us that the machines want in on the action. Not only are they going to steal your lucrative forklift job at the local warehouse, but they’re probably going to steal your ladies, too.

BMW i Ventures has announced its lead investment in Fox Robotics, the world’s first intelligent forklift that can autonomously unload pallets from the trailer to the receiving dock. The oversubscribed funding round raised a total of $20 million from new and existing investors. New investors include Zebra Technologies, Japan Airlines & Translink Innovation Fund, and Foothill Ventures. Existing investors Menlo Ventures, ENIAC Ventures, and SignalFire also participated in the round.

So, yes, the rich investor guys are in on it. Probably because they’re envious like BMW was when you went and bought a Tesla instead of a Bimmer. With forklifts, nobody wants a German car to impress the ladies these days.

“Supply chain efficiency and resiliency are top of mind for many companies today. Fox Robotics’ autonomous forklifts allow customers to handle loads quicker and safer while increasing overall workplace productivity,” said Kasper Sage, Managing Partner at BMW i Ventures. “We’re excited for Fox Robotics’ next phase of growth, bringing intelligent automation solutions to the global supply chain.”

Fox’s autonomous forklifts are in operation 24/7 at multiple customer locations today, including DHL Supply Chain (which has very high standards). The company has solved the most difficult challenge faced by forklift operators to date — unloading trailers without changing anything about the warehouse environment. Fox’s solution is much faster and easier to implement than other automation solutions, which can take weeks or months to get integrated.

So, my forklift certified friends, time is short. Once the machines come for your warehouse, you don’t have long.

“Unloading trailers is a particularly challenging autonomy problem due to demanding operating environments, high throughput requirements, unknown load patterns, and the vehicles needing to be robust to frequent shocks and vibrations,” said Peter Anderson-Sprecher, Co-Founder & CEO of Fox Robotics. “The key to our success to-date has been our ability to deploy our solutions to customers and rapidly learn and improve in live production environments”

DHL Supply Chain was Fox’s first customer and has since been rapidly deploying their technology across numerous warehouses. So, avoid the yellow van company if you want to keep your certification a little longer, fellas.

“At DHL Supply Chain a key focus has been our Accelerated Digitization Strategy which seeks to nurture and deploy innovative technology solutions at scale. For this program to be successful it is important that we establish strategic partnerships with companies like Fox where we can collaborate to develop solutions that addresses the unique challenges of the logistics industry,” said Sally Miller, CIO, DHL Supply Chain North America. “Over the past three years we’ve worked closely with Fox testing and sharing operational knowledge which has resulted in a product that delivers true value for both our customers and warehouse associates.”

Fox is a company on the rise, and its solution is helping to automate some of the most complex logistics environments in the world. Here’s what the company has to say about the horror they’ve unleashed upon the forklift-certified world:

“Fox is executing today on one of the key visions David [Fuller] and I had always wanted to deliver with KUKA — the automation of the material handling function. At KUKA we successfully optimized the production side with robots, and now Fox is well positioned to do the same thing with pallet movement,” added Till Reuter, former CEO of KUKA, and incoming Board Director at Fox. “It’s almost hard to believe how effective they are even when you see them up and running right in front of you.”

Worse, the boss doesn’t even have to buy a new forklift. While autonomous vehicles clearly have not yet reached the point where they can be deployed on public streets, the technology is being used in commercial settings, such as warehouses. Fox employs standard forklifts that have been outfitted with sensors and software to enable them to autonomously handle material, including precise navigation and robust pallet picking and movement. Deep learning systems use onboard cameras and LiDAR sensors to detect pallets, boxes, and other obstacles in real time. This allows the forklift to pick up pallets from trailers it has never seen before.

You know what this means — there are things you won’t ever get to see again, now that you’re on the path to losing that cert.

Also, Zebra Technologies invested in the round. It is a global leader of automation solutions for enterprises. So, yes, you’re in trouble, forklift men. Let’s hear what Zebra has to say about all this:

“Zebra Technologies has been an active investor and solution provider to help businesses globally digitize and automate their supply chains and augment front-line workers,” said Tony Palcheck, Managing Director of Zebra Ventures, Zebra Technologies. “Fox has proven its ability to increase resiliency, safety, and drive measurable return on investment, and we look forward to working together with Fox on this next stage of growth.”

The worst news for forklift studs? There’s no place to go to get away from this. Fox aims to use its forklifts in warehouses and production environments worldwide, as well as developing new autonomous capabilities for even more uses. With the new funds, it plans to ramp up production rates, invest in skilled employees, and establish a global presence.

It’s too late to go and buy an BMW to try to get on their good side now. They’ve already let the automated forklift genie out of the bottle, and it’s never going back in. Sorry.

Featured image: a screenshot from Fox Robotics’ YouTube video (embedded above).

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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