Robot Safety Update: FAQs

A3 Director of Robotic Standards Development, Carole Franklin, answers common questions she receives regarding Robot Safety Standards.

If you comply to R15.06, do you also inherently comply to ISO 10218? Is the same going to apply for the new standards , R15.08 and ISO 3691-4?

The situation is different between the two cases, and here's how.

The ISO 10218, Parts 1 and 2, are developed first, by the ISO Technical Committee (TC) 299, Robotics. Then the two parts of 10218-1,2 are nationally adopted in the U.S. as R15.06, which includes Parts 1 and 2 in the same document.

ISO 3691-4, on the other hand, was developed by a different ISO TC, TC 110 for Industrial Trucks, to cover "driverless industrial trucks," aka AGVs. It grew out of the AGV worldview which still largely makes safety requirements on the assumption that "guidepaths" are important.

R15.08 was developed separately in the U.S. and started with the assumption that a large portion of what we consider "industrial mobile robots" are capable of autonomous navigation with no reference to a guidepath. Also, the R15.08 Committee considers that many of the machines we cover are not truly "industrial trucks," and never had any capability of being "driven" or ridden; hence the description "driverless industrial trucks" of 3691-4 is not really applicable.

As a result, since they arose from different foundations and assumptions, and were developed in parallel rather than either being based on the other, the 3691-4 and R15.08-1 are not "equivalent" in the same sense that 10218-1,2 and its U.S. national adoption, R15.06, are equivalent.

There is some discussion of a future joint effort between TC 110 and TC 299, so convergence of the two bodies of knowledge in R15.08-1 and 3691-4 is a future possibility. But the talks are only in their earliest stages, so there's not a lot more to say right now about if or when this could occur.

How closely does ANSI/RIA R15.08-1-2020 compare to ISO/TS 15066:2016? Are they fairly close in content, or are they fairly different?

These two standards are quite different. ISO/TS 15066 covers safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems, while R15.08-1 covers safety requirements for industrial mobile robots. 15066 builds on the foundation of 10218-1,2, which has some baked-in assumptions; one of these is that the "industrial robot" covered by 10218 and 15066 are "manipulators" (aka "arms") and are fixed in place. The R15.08-1 covers industrial robot manipulators ONLY to the extent that they are attached to a mobile platform; that is, NOT fixed in place. R15.08-1 also covers industrial mobile robots that do not incorporate an attachment that would qualify as an industrial robot arm. And, while R15.08-1 does refer to 10218-1,2 (aka the U.S. adoption of 10218, R15.06), it is not truly a supplemental document the same way that 15066 is. R15.08-1 is a stand-alone, not a supplement.

One way in which they are alike is that they both represent a paradigm shift in how we look at human safety around industrial robotics. 15066 for the first time described how it could be possible to permit a human into the robot's safeguarded space while still keeping the human safe. R15.08-1 has opened up the possibility of how to keep humans safe when the robot is able to move freely around the facility. Both are quite different from the "old" paradigm of keeping humans safe by keeping the separated from the industrial robot -- although it remains the case the "conventional" paradigm is still quite relevant, since it still represents the vast majority of robot systems sold today.

Robots are now collaborating not only with humans, but also other robots, often from different manufacturers. What effect does that have?

This is really a question of "interoperability" and not "safety" per se, and therefore is not covered by R15.08-1, which is a safety standard. Although I grant that it is possible to envision cases where lack of interoperability might lead to a safety concern, present-day IMRs do have sensors and on-board logic for obstacle avoidance and collision avoidance that generally should prevent a human from being struck (injured) by one or both of two non-interoperable IMRs. The problems arising from lack of interoperability tend more to be economic ones, not safety concerns -- that is, lack of productivity while, for example, two non-interoperating IMRs engage in a "stare-down" with each other. While these are clearly important concerns, they are also out of scope for a safety standard.

However, other initiatives are already working on solutions for the interoperability problem -- so, stay tuned.

Is the R15.08 based on a harmonized standard as well (similar to R15.06 / ISO 10218)?

At the moment, R15.08-1 is a national (U.S.) or at most regional standard (North America; a fair number of our Canadian colleagues joined the committee). Our plan all along was to take R15.08 to ISO Technical Committee (TC) 299, Robotics, to serve as the starting point for an ISO standard which could then be the foundation for a harmonized standard, like 10218-1,2. This is actually the model that we used for the R15.06 - 10218 activity. Once available, our vision was that the future ISO standard on safety requirements for industrial mobile robots would then be nationally adopted as the future edition of R15.08-1. We still intend to pursue this activity, so it could be the case in the future. However, such work is still in its earliest stages, so it is not yet possible to say more about if or when this will occur.

Would an autonomous fork lift be classified as a Type C AMR?

This is one of those "gray areas" between IMRs (industrial mobile robots) and AGVs (automated guided vehicles).

Although we specifically exclude forklifts from R15.08-1, if it WERE covered by R15.08-1, an autonomously-navigating forklift would only be a Type C IMR *if* it also had an industrial robot arm as an attachment (in addition to the forklift). That's what make a Type C, a Type C: The industrial robot arm attachment. Without the industrial robot arm attachment, a forklift could only be a Type B IMR (autonomous navigation + locomotion + ANY OTHER CABAPILITY, in this case, the fork and its lifting capability).

There are many considerations for safety that are specific to forklifts, due to the requirements for stability to enable their particular capability of lifting loads. And, there is a long-standing body of knowledge developed to address them; in the U.S., for example, this is the B56.5 standard. The R15.08 committee wanted to avoid "reinventing the wheel" of what is already covered by the B56.5 standard. Because of the specialized knowledge regarding forklifts, we felt that the development of a safety standard for autonomous forklifts, per se, is something to request of the B56 group. Perhaps this is a potential future area of collaboration between R15.08 and B56 committees.

For an autonomous fork lift, what would be the corresponding standard?

There are many considerations for safety that are specific to forklifts, due to the requirements for stability to enable their particular capability of lifting loads. And, there is a long-standing body of knowledge developed to address them; in the U.S., for example, this is the B56.5 standard. The committee wanted to avoid "reinventing the wheel" of what is already covered by the B56.5 standard. We felt, because of the specialized knowledge regarding forklifts, that the development of a safety standard for autonomous forklifts, per se, is something to request of the B56 group. Perhaps this is a potential future area of collaboration between R15.08 and B56 committees.

What are the main differences between “automated” and “autonomous”?

It's a good question. And actually, one we have discussed in R15.08 Committee meetings, but I think before your time on the committee.

Generally, the difference is that "automated" simply means "performed by a machine following a series of pre-programmed actions," whereas "autonomous" implies a greater degree of decision-making on the part of the machine. On a spectrum of autonomous capabilities, in my view, "automated" is less autonomous than is "autonomous".  Automated systems could be, and indeed often are, quite complex. It is just that they do not make decisions for themselves depending on that they sense in the environment.

In R15.08-1, we define what we mean by "Automated Guided Vehicle" and "Autonomous Mobile Robot":

3.2 Automatic guided vehicle; AGV mobile platform (see Clause 3.16) following a predefined path (i.e., guidepath) indicated by markers or external guidance commands

NOTE 1 to entry: When a manipulator is integrated to an AGV as its mobile platform, the combined device becomes an IMR Type C, and is within the scope of this document.

NOTE 2 to entry: For all other guidance on the safe use of AGVs, including when they have been provided with attachments other than manipulators, see ANSI/ITSDF B56.5, or ISO 3691-4.

3.3 Autonomous mobile robot; AMR mobile platform (3.16) that can navigate using obstacle avoidance (3.18) and trajectory planning (3.26) rather than a predefined path (i.e., guidepath)


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