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Being safe around collaborative and versatile robots in shared spaces

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - COVR (Being safe around collaborative and versatile robots in shared spaces)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-06-30

The need for collaboration with robots on human tasks is evident in all sectors of the European market. Collaboration always raises safety issues, and European legislation is very careful to promote the protection of workers, elderly and weak subjects as a top priority. The need for “certification”, i.e. the compliance with mandatory requirements of Safety and Health, are in fact perceived as a pressing need by market operators (manufacturers, end users, etc.).

Safety regulations will be a barrier to cobot deployment unless they are easy to access, understand and apply. COVR collates existing safety regulations relating to cobots in e.g. manufacturing and fills in regulatory gaps for newer cobot fields as rehabilitation to present detailed safety assessment instructions to coboteers. Making the safety assessment process clearer allows cobots to be used with more confidence in more situations, increasing the variety of cobots on the market and the variety of services cobots can offer to the general population.

COVR provides a one-stop shop which uses a common approach to safety assessment and is valid across all fields and applications. COVR will provide clear and simple online access to best-practice safety testing protocols via a user-friendly decision tree, guided by questions about the cobot and its intended behaviors. Resulting application-specific testing protocols specify how to assess safety and document compliance with regulations. We support coboteers by providing safety-relevant services based in well-equipped facilities at each partner site. COVR services cover all stages of cobot development from design through final system sign-off to safety in use and maintenance, provided through consultancy, risk analysis, actual testing, workshops, courses, demonstrations, etc. – all designed to inspire people to increase cobot safety. All COVR elements will be beta-tested by external cobot developers etc. financed by FSTP. By using project elements “live”, these FSTP beneficiaries not only develop their cobots further towards market, but also contribute their knowledge to the COVR system and provide valuable feedback to both partners and standards developers.
The COVR project was launched in January 2018 and has been a strong representative for the EU efforts on safety within the robotics domain. The main results of the project so far are:

- Created a free access online Toolkit, helping companies with relevant information for all stages of cobot development or implementation
- Created 8 base protocols for safety validation and will release additional 10 in September 2020.
- Attracted 248 eligible applicants across three open calls from 21 EU member countries
- Finished 20 Award projects, are currently working on 22 and will select another batch of same size in October 2020.
- Established 5 state of the art safety testing facilities
The COVR project introduces a large number of safety validation protocols for robotics. These protocols are currently strongly underrepresented in both technical literature and standardization documents, which leads to uncertainty in the industry on how to assess safety for robots working in shared workspace with humans. Introducing a broad range of proven protocols will address this issue and lower the barrier for safely introducing this type of robotics across many domains, ranging from manufacturing to agriculture to healthcare.

The online accessible Toolkit allows coboteers that are inexperienced within standardization, to find directives, standards and protocols that are relevant to their specific application, saving them a lot of time searching for the right documents. Safety/standardization experts can also use the toolkit, as it can be used for browsing and filtering the COVR Toolkit database. This service will, like the protocols, result in safer robots in operation as finding the correct regulation and best-practice to follow will become easier, which in the end is expected to lead to fewer accidents involving collaborative robots.

The fact that validating safety will become faster, more standardized and transparent is overall expected to promote the rate of implementation of collaborative robots on the European market.