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Mercedes-Benz Will Start Using Humanoid Robots to Help Build Cars

Mercedes-Benz is turning to the robots for help.

The German automaker has entered into an agreement to try out Austin, Texas-based Apptronik’s humanoid robots at its factories. Mercedes is positioning the partnership as a chance to see how robots can be used to help human workers and ease staffing issues during the manufacturing process.

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As part of the pilot program, Apptronik’s humanoid robots will be used to automate “low skill, physically challenging, manual labor,” according to a joint press release. One of these bipedal robots, Apollo, stands five feet eight inches tall, weight 160 pounds, and can lift up to 55 pounds (it looks like a slightly friendlier version of Tesla’s Optimus). It was designed and built to work alongside humans in industrial spaces.

Mercedes and Apptronik are still exploring potential “use cases” for the robots, though they will likely be used to deliver and inspect parts early on. It’s also unclear how many robots will be used, though the Financial Times reports (via The Verge) they are already being trialed at the automaker’s factory in Hungary. The country, which is a manufacturing hub for several automakers, has experienced a labor shortage in recent years as its workers migrate to western Europe.

“This is a new frontier and we want to understand the potential both for robotics and automotive manufacturing to fill labor gaps in areas such as low-skill, repetitive and physically demanding work and to free up our highly skilled team members on the line to build the world’s most desirable cars.” Jörg Burzer, who oversees production at Mercedes, said in a statement.

Apptronik's Apollo robot
Apptronik’s Apollo robot at Mercedes-Benz’s Hungary factory

Mercedes isn’t the first (and certainly won’t be the last) automaker to use humanoid robots in its factories. Earlier this year, BMW announced its own partnership with California-based Figure to test out the effectiveness of its robots. The latter’s 01 robot is currently being used at the German marque’s US factories in Spartanburg, South Carolina. As with Mercedes and Apptronik, BMW and Figure are still trying to figure out the best way to make use of the robot, but intend to use it to automate “difficult, unsafe, or tedious” manufacturing tasks.

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