Toyota 8-Series Lift Truck Modified by MIT Researchers

July 20, 2010

The truck has been modified to perform unmanned robotic pallet manipulation.

IRVINE, CA -- /PRNewswire/ -- Routine use of robotic lift trucks is not far off, according to Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. (TMHU). Innovative lift truck applications involving unmanned operation are being increasingly explored for high-risk work environments, such as those in the military. Over two days this June, the U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency (LIA) hosted demonstrations at Fort Lee, in Virginia, of an MIT-developed prototype unmanned robotic Toyota lift truck capable of locating, lifting, moving and placing palletized supplies within an existing outdoor supply depot. The demonstration included review of the robot's safety features, sensor capabilities and human-robot interface based on voice and gesture commands.

The robotics technology was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), BAE Systems and Lincoln Laboratory in collaboration with the LIA, the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) Sustainment Battle Lab, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E).

The 3,000-pound capacity, internal combustion Toyota 8-Series lift truck was modified by researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to perform embodied speech and gesture understanding; shape estimation (from laser range scanner data); machine vision (from camera data); motion estimation (from GPS, inertial data and wheel odometry encoders); and autonomous mobility and pallet manipulation. Proprietary Controller Area Network (CAN-bus) protocols, provided by Toyota's 8-Series product engineering team, enabled the MIT team to connect its algorithms directly to the lift truck's manual and electrical controls. The demonstration illustrated capabilities realized during the first two years of research and development on the project.

"We chose the internal combustion Toyota lift truck because it can be operated outdoors on packed earth or gravel and because, with mini-lever control some of its functionality can be controlled electronically rather than solely mechanically," said MIT Professor Seth Teller, who leads the project. "The Toyota 8FGU15 is a fine machine, and we are quite happy with its performance."

"We are excited to work with the innovative researchers at MIT on this promising application of lift trucks," said Brett Wood, president of TMHU. "Robotic forklifts have the potential to protect both military and civilian personnel working in high-risk environments, such as hazardous material storage facilities. Toyota's 8-Series proved to be a perfect candidate thanks to its advanced technology, electronic throttle and load handling controls."

About Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A.
Celebrating more than 40 years of established operations in the United States, Irvine, California-based Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc., (TMHU) has been the No. 1 selling lift truck supplier in the U.S. since 2002 and currently offers a full line of high-quality lift trucks sold under the Toyota brand. TMHU, as the sole United States distributor for Aichi, now offers a line-up of aerial work lifts, including scissor lifts, crawler and wheeled boom lifts designed specifically to meet a wide range of indoor and outdoor needs.

Toyota also has extended its material handling expertise to Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). With 15 years experience in the Asian market, there are more than 1,000 Toyota AGVs in operation in the world today. Toyota now offers AGVs in the U.S. with capacities ranging from 500 to 4,000 pounds, which are designed for smaller loads and ideal for companies looking to increase handling volume without increasing operational staff. Utilizing a self-adhesive magnetic tape makes setup of Toyota AGVs simple and requires no floor modifications. Toyota's automation solutions feature a wide variety of offerings including multiple path programming, retractable towing pin, remote communication, programmable optical sensors, etc.

Quality is the hallmark of Toyota's world-renowned Toyota Production System practiced at all Toyota manufacturing facilities, including Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg., Inc. (TIEM). Most of the Toyota lift trucks sold in the United States are manufactured at TIEM in Columbus, Ind.

TIEM, and all Toyota manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Canada, comply with the ISO 14001 standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and have been honored for their environmental management systems and dedication to continuous improvement.

Toyota's commitment to excellence in customer service extends nationwide. Sixty-eight authorized Toyota Industrial Equipment dealers, with a total of 189 dealership locations throughout the United States, offer comprehensive customer service and support, including one-stop shopping for both new and used lift trucks, rentals, parts and service, fleet servicing and financing.

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