Engineers designed Kiva Systems' robotic warehouse vehicle fleet and support infrastructure, but creating the traffic pattern algorithm that optimizes locomotion, navigation, and servicing (charging, repair, etc.), was almost certainly the work of mathematicians. This is the ultimate automated storage and retrieval syste (AS/RS), although Kiva is loathe to call it that. As you watch the video, be sure to note the way the robots lift pallets, run through aisle ways with clearances of only a few inches, affect the stop-and-go and right-of-way procedures to avoid collisions and flow bottlenecks, and finally deliver products to their intended 'pickers' at the packing stations. I'm guessing there are also sensors onboard that detect and correct potential tipping and payload rocking/resonance issues. Onboard smarts combine with wireless signaling to prevent utter chaos.
"Just how good is Kiva Systems?," you might ask. To answer that I'll refer you to the old TV advertisement where Victor Kiam (former New England Patriots owner) says, "I liked this Remington Microscreen rechargeable shaver so much, I bought the company." Amazon must have felt the same way about Kiva Systems because they bought the company in 2012 based on the success of their own order fulfillment warehouse implementation.
Those opposed to such automated systems claim that they displace human workers, but they ignore the many people employed to design, build, deliver, install, and maintain the systems. Going through life with blinders on is a great disadvantage. I bestow the adjective clause 'low information person' to such types who are members of a rapidly growing population that unfortunately have voting rights.
Kiva Systems' Robotic Warehouse Retrieval System
Victor Kiam: "I liked this Remington Microscreen rechargeable shave so much,
I bought the company"
(starts at 1:17)
Posted December 1, 2014