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Safety assurance of autonomy to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Published on July 1st 2019

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to a step change in the level of autonomy in manufacturing facilities. Autonomy involves enabling machines to make decisions that were previously made by humans. This movement of responsibility for decision-making from humans to machines raises a number of challenges when assuring the safety of the operations. The challenges are exacerbated further by the use of artificial intelligence in system training and control, and by the greater use of robots in areas where there is close interaction between humans and machines (often referred to as cobots).

In this paper, we first provide a general discussion of the challenges of autonomy, and then we use three scenarios for manufacturing, representing a progression through different levels of automation and autonomy. This highlights how the nature and extent of the safety assurance challenge increase for each scenario. We discuss possible approaches for addressing the issues and identify the key open research challenges.

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This is one of two briefing papers developed under the project “The safety and security dimensions of Industry 4.0”, commissioned to the University of Cambridge (Policy Links – Institute for Manufacturing) by the Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit (GMIS), on behalf of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF).

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