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Publication numberUS3617962 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateNov 2, 1971
Filing dateApr 3, 1970
Priority dateApr 3, 1970
Publication numberUS 3617962 A, US 3617962A, US-A-3617962, US3617962 A, US3617962A
InventorsWilson Kenneth A
Original AssigneeAmerican Chain & Cable Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Automatic guidance system for vehicles
US 3617962 A
Images(7)
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent Inventor Appl. No.

Filed Fiteh'd Assignee Kenneth A. Wilson Locust Valley, N.Y.

Apr. 3, 1970 Division of Ser. No. 680,182, No v. 2, 1967, Pat. No. 3,512,601 Nov. 2,1971

American Chain & Cable Company, Inc.

New York, N.Y.

AUTOMATIC GUIDANCE SYSTEM FOR VEHICLES 7 Claims, 18 Drawing Figs.

Primary Examiner- Bernard A. Gilheany Assistant Examiner--R. N. Envall, J r. Attorney-Barnes, Kisselle, Raisch & Choate ABSTRACT: A switch device for placement in a floor for an automatic vehicle guidance system utilizing a reed switch encased in the floor having armature plates extending from the reed switch to the floor surface to detect the presence of a vehicle.

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SHEET 1 OF 7 INVI'JNTOR; KENNETH A. WILSON ATTORNEYS Fae. l

PATENTEDNUVZ m1 sum u 0F 7 AT TORNEYS PATENTED NUVZ am MANUAL OPERATION SHEET 6 OF 7 Au'romA'n't. OPERATION OPERATOR $TAR'1' $10? 228%. I I CONTROL 61 I BRAKE PROGRAM 7 I PAT ELECTRO- I CONTROL. MAGNET I 32 I STEERlNG srecams CONTROL MOTOR I I SENSOR- sENsoR- SENsoR- PERMANENT I I HOLDING CODE PATH MAGNET I L FLOCLRVI 3O 3 I J I HOLDING MAGNETS CONDUCTOR MONO- Bl- LOOP STABLE smau. L A Modules Ba 3 Moduks Fl 6. l2

KENNETH A .Wu soN flnA/MJA) $1904 ATTORNEYS guide 'path control devices,

AUTOMATIC GUIDANCE SYSTEM FOR VEHICLES This application is a division of y copending application Ser. No. 680,182, filed Nov. 2, 1967 now U.S. Pat. No. 3,512,601 issued May 19, 1970.

This invention relates to guidance systems and particularly to guidance systems for unmanned self-propelled vehicles such as tractors which are utilized in warehouses and the like for transporting loads from one destination to another.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION It has been well known that an unmanned self-propelled vehicle may be guided along a predetermined path defined by an energized conductor by sensing the position of the conductor and guiding the vehicle along the path defined by the conductor. Such a system is shown, for example, in the U.S. Pat. to Paulus et al. No. 2,317,400. In such systems, various decision points are provided as where the paths intersect, diverge or converge as well as when the vehicle reaches the desired destination. In the U.S. Pat. to De Liban No. 3,147,817, there is disclosed a system wherein the guide path is defined by conductors that are energized at two different frequencies at least at the decision points and the sensor on the vehicle is controlled or tuned at a decision point so thatit is responsive only to one of the two frequencies. Obviously, such a system requires separate energizing sources for the various paths as well as accurately controlled sensor means. In the U.S. Pat. to Barrett No. 3,245,493, there is discloseda system whereinat each decision point, there is a gap or spacein the guide path and the steering mechanism of the vehicle is locked in a straight line by an internally generated signal so that the sensor that normally guides the vehicle is, in effect, bypassed at the decision point. Such a system is undesirable in that the movement of the vehicle is not being positively controlled while the vehicle is in this gap between conductor portions.

Among the objects of the present invention are to provide a guidance system which effectively controls the vehicle by selective energization of a single conductor closed circuit system at the decision points; which is relatively simple and requires a minimum of maintenance: which utilizes novel control devices; and wherein the control devices derive their energy from the guide path conductor.

SUMMARY The guidance system disclosed herein comprises a guide path to be followedby thevehicle which is defined by a conductor or wire embedded in the floor. The conductor is connected to produce a single closed circuit energized by a constant current oscillator. The vehicle includes sensor means which follows the energized conductor and guides the vehicle along the path. The path may contain various decision points such as points at which portions of the conductor are brought into close proximity so that the vehicle must decide which path to follow, such as points where the paths intersect, diverge and converge. The guide path includes separately energizable portions at such decision points, controlled by which are selectively energized upon signal from the vehicle so that only that portion is energized which lies along the direction in which it is desired that the vehicle travel. Where a plurality of vehicles are provided, provision is made for causing a leading vehicle to energize a holding loop at a point behind the leading vehicle which produces a signal that is received by a succeeding vehicle and causes the succeeding vehicle to be stopped until the leading vehicle has passed the predetermined point. Similar blocking devices are associated with the aforementioned decision points.

Some of the guide path control devices derive energy from the guide path conductor and incorporate a novel construction.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a diagram of a typical guide path embodying the guidance system of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a partly diagrammatic fragmentary view of a vehicle utilized-in the system.

FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic plan view of a vehicle utilized in the system.

FIG. 4 is a schematic wiring diagram of the intersection shown in FIG. 1 when utilized for a single vehicle system.

FIG. 5 isa schematic diagram of the point of divergence of the path shown in FIG. 1 when utilized for a single vehicle system.

FIG. 6 is a schematic diagram of the point of convergence in the guide path shown in FIG. I when utilized for a single vehicle.

FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of a portion of the guidance system shown in FIG. 1 wherein a plurality of vehicles are used.

FIG. 8 is a schematic diagram of the intersection shown in FIG. 1 wherein a plurality of vehicles are used.

FIG. 9 is a schematic diagram of the diverging point shown in FIG. I when a plurality of vehicles are used.

FIG. 10 is a schematic diagram of the converging point shown in FIG. 1 when a plurality of vehicles are used.

FIG. 11 is a wiring diagram showing the manner in which the portion of the guide path containing the diverging and converging points is electrically connected.

FIG. 12 is a block diagram of the control system.

FIG. 13 is a fragmentary side elevational view of a portion of a floor module in position.

FIG. 14 is a part sectional elevational view of the module shown in FIG. 13.

FIG. 15 is a part sectional elevational view of another form of module.

FIG. 16 is a plan view of the same.

FIG. 17 is a schematic diagram of the same.

FIG. 18 is a wiring diagram of the same.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION Referring to FIG. 1, the guide path 10 shown is utilized for controlling the movement of one or more vehicles such as tractors which may pull trailers between stations 1, 2 and 3. As shown, the guide path includes an intersection I, a diverging intersection II wherein the vehicle can move in one of two paths 21, 22, the latter extending to station 3, and a converging intersection III.

As will appear more clearly hereinafter, the guide path 20 is defined by a single circuit comprising conductors or wires embedded in the floor and so connected that at all times a single circuit is defined. The conductor is energized by a constant current oscillator, for example, at a frequency of 2 kc. and

one-eighth amperes.

Referring to FIG. 2, the vehicle T which may comprise a tractor is provided with rear drive wheels 24 that are driven by a motor 25 through a differential 26 and a front dirigible style steering wheel 27 that is steered by a steering motor 28. A control system is provided on the vehicle which senses readers along the guide path and produces an appropriate signal for selectively energizing portions of the guide path along which the vehicle is to pass, as more fully described hereinafter. The control system includes a programming selector or sensor 29 into which the operator places or selects a destination to which the vehicle is to be guided.

Referring to FIG. 3, the vehicle includes sensor means 30 which are utilized to control the steering motor 28 and steer the vehicle along the energized guide path as described, for example, in the U.S. Pat. to I-Iosking et al. No. 3,039,954, issued June 19, 1962. In addition, the vehicle has a permanent magnet 31 thereon which is utilized in the path control system and a selectively energizable electromagnet 32 which is also utilized in the path control system.

Further, the vehicle supports a signal device path as a pickup coil 33 that is utilized in controlling the movement of the vehicle and particularly in stopping the vehicle in the event that a leading vehicle is interrupted in its movement or is closer than a predetermined interval with respect to the succeeding vehicle.

In addition, selectively energizable sensing means in the form of two bars 34, 35 supporting sensing devices are provided for sensing or reading signals placed in predetermined positions along the path of the vehicle to produce guidance of the vehicle along the shortest path and to stop the vehicle at the predetermined destination.

GUIDE PATH CONTROL SYSTEM -SINGLE VEHICLE Referring to FIG. 1, in areas of the guide path wherein the guide path intersects other paths or portions of the guide paths move into close proximity so that it is necessary to make a decision as to which path is to be followed by the vehicle, the path control is achieved by selectively energizing one of two portions at such points shown in FIG. 1 as I, II and Ill.

Referring to FIG. 4, the manner in which the decision is made at points of intersection is shown schematically in FIG. 4. Thus, a vehicle approaching the intersection along path portion 50 defined by a conductor momentarily actuates a normally closed monostable device 51 that controls a bistable device 56 which energizes a portion 52 of the intersecting guide path 53 and deenergizes a portion 54. The bistable device 56 incorporates a holding circuit which maintains the portion 52 energized. Thus, as the vehicle approaches the intersection of paths 50 and 53, only path 50 is energized and the sensor means on the vehicle will thus cause the vehicle to follow along path 50. As the vehicle further moves and passes the intersection, a second normally open monostable device 55, in advance of conductor portion 52, returns the bistable device 56 to its original state to deenergize the bypass circuit 52 so that current will flow through the normal path 54. Similarly, when a vehicle approaches the intersection along path 53, a normally closed monostable device 57 is utilized to energize a bypass portion 58 and deenergize the principal portion 59' of the path 50. Specifically, monostable device 57 actuates a bistable device 59in the bypass circuit 58 to energize the bypass circuit 58 until the vehicle has passed the intersection and momentarily energizes a normally open monostable device 60 which deenergizes the bistable device 59 to deenergize the circuit 58 and reestablish the flow of current across portion 59' of path 50.

The monostable devices 51, 55, 57 and 60 may comprise reed switches that are embedded along the path and in the floor and are actuated by a magnet on the vehicle such as a magnet 31 (FIG. 3). The bistable devices 56, 59 may comprise monostable reed switches with a holding circuit. As sown in the schematic diagram FIG. 4, the bistable devices 56, 59 include a normally closed pair of contacts 62 which is electrically connected to complete a circuit between portions 53, 54 of the conductor. Tl-le bistable device further includes a holding circuit 63. When the monostable device 51 interrupts the current flow through the portions 54, current can only flow through the holding circuit 63 and thus maintains the contacts 62 in open position until the second monostable device 55, which is normally opened, is momentarily closed to short cross the holding circuit 63 and reestablish current flow between portions 53, 54 of the conductor. The second bistable device 59 is similarly connected.

The manner in which the conductor is selectively energized and wired in order to control the vehicle at a point of divergence such as shown at point II in FIG. 1 is shown in FIG. wherein a bistable device 65 which is a two position device without a holding circuit is provided in the path of the vehicle and normally completes a circuit thereby energizing a portion 66 that extends in the normal path of the main portion 67 of the guide path. The bistable device 65 normally interrupts the flow of current to a second portion 68 of the conductor that is aligned and extends between the portion 67 in the direction and the portion 68' in the direction of the diverging path. Portion 68' is energized by a conductor portion 69 that is parallel to another portion 70, and the latter is interconnected to the portion 66 by a portion 71. It can be seen that the portions 69, 70 have current flow therein in opposite directions so that there is no net signal which would produce a steering signal to the vehicle. As the vehicle approaches the point of divergence, if the electromagnet 32 on the vehicle is properly energized as will occur when a decision is made by the path control system to cause the vehicle to diverge, the energized electromagnet 32 on the vehicle will actuate the bistable device 65 to break the circuit to the portion 66 and complete the circuit to the conductor portion 68 so that the vehicle will follow the energized conductor portion 68 in the diverging path. The bistable device 65 will remain in this position until it is again actuated by an opposite signal from the electromagnet 32 of a succeeding vehicle to return it to a condition for energizing conductor portion 66 so that the vehicle will follow in a normal path between portions 67 and 72a. A resistor 67a is provided in parallel with portions 66, 68 to maintain a load in the circuit during momentary switching and thereby obviate the possibility that the guide might be momentarily open-circuited during switching.

The manner in which the control of conductor path energization at a point such as the point of convergence III in FIG. 1 is shown schematically in FIG. 6 wherein the portion of the guide path 72 is electrically connected to a bistable device 75 of the aforementioned B type such that current normally flows through a guide path conductor portion 76 that extends from alignment with the bypass portion 68' and is electrically connected to a portion 77 aligned with the portion 72b. The bypass conductor portion 68 has a portion 78 extending parallel to interconnecting portion 79 so that no signal is normally produced in that area. If a vehicle is on the bypass conductor path 68 and approaches the point of divergence, it passes through to the main path 77.

If, however, a vehicle approaches along the path 72, the permanent magnet 31 on the vehicle actuates the bistable device 75 interrupting the flow to the portion 76 and permitting the flow of current to portion 81 so that the vehicle will pass along the main path to the portion 77. After the vehicle passes the point of convergence, a monostable device 82 that is normally open is momentarily closed to short circuit the holding circuit of the bistable device 75 and reestablish flow of current to the portion 76.

In the aforementioned description, the monostable devices of the simple switch type have been designated by the letter A, the monostable devices with a holding circuit have been designated by the letter B, and the bistable devices have been designated by the letter S.

In devices of the B-type, the impedance of the holding circuit portion is made much greater than the impedance of the guide path portion. Thus, for example, in FIG. 6 the impedance of the holding portion is much greater than the impedance of the guide path portion 80-79-76 which is in parallel therewith. Thus, the two paths will divide the current in inverse proportion to their resistances. The current flow through path 81 is negligible compared to the current flow through path 79 and the radiating signal will be in the same proportion as the currents. When the device 75 of the B-type is switched, the path 79 will be an open circuit and all the current will be forced to travel through the path 81. When the current is in the path 79, the power absorbed from the signal generator will be small compared to the power absorbed from the signal generator when the current is in the path 81. Since in the system of the present invention the circuits normally maintain the B-type modules in the deenergized position except when being traversed by a vehicle, only a few of the B- type devices are on at any time so that the total energy absorbed by the B-type devices is relatively low. Thus, it can be seen that in all cases the impedance of the path in parallel with the holding circuit is maintained at a low level.

It may be noted that in each of the figures, the arrows represent travel of the vehicle as well as instantaneous current flow.

FLOOR MODULES As will be apparent, the monostable and bistable devices that are positioned in the floor are preferably in the form of encapsulated modules. In the schematic drawings heretofore shown, the modules have been also designated by the letters A, B and S. The module A in the preferred form comprises a monostable reed switch. The module B comprises a monostable reed switch with a holding circuit. THe module S comprises a bistable reed switch.

Referring more specifically to FIGS. 13 and 14, the module A comprises a casing 100 in which a subassembly is positioned. The subassembly comprises angularlyrelated armature plates 102 which are fixed by an adhesive 103 to a plastic support 104 that has a hollow opening supporting the encapsulated reed switch 105. A silicon rubber dipped coating is applied to the subassembly and an epoxy resin 106 holds and encapsulates the coated subassembly in the casing 100. The entire module is inserted in an opening in the floor with the upper end of the armature projecting beyond the easing into substantially flush relation with the floor surface and the leads L extending laterally outwardly and connected to the conductor in a suitable manner. Grouting material G is provided around the upper end of the armature.

The B module as shown in FIGS. 15 and 16 is substantially identical to the A module except that it includes a coil. wound around the switch 105 and associated electronic elements which are shown in schematic form in FIG. 17.

Referring to FIG. 18, the B-module in addition to the normally closed contacts includes a holding circuit heretofore described by the designation M which comprises two parallel branches I10, 111 that have oppositely directed diodes 112, 113 and oppositely wound coils 114, 115 therein. Capacitors 116, 117 are provided in parallel with the coils 114, 115. By this arrangement, the AC current which is diverted into the branch of the B-module when the contacts are opened is converted to a DC current that creates a constant magnetic field in the vicinity of the reed and maintains the contacts in open condition until the B-module is reset by short circuiting across the contacts as occurs when an A-module is subsequently momentarily closed.

The S-module is substantially identical to the A-module except that instead of a monostable reed 105, a bistable reed switch is provided.

GUIDE PATH CONTROL SYSTEM -MULTIPLE VEHICLES Where multiple vehicles are used on a guide path such as shown in FIG. 1, it is essential to provide that one vehicle will not contact another, both in the normal movement along a single path and at the points of decision such as at the intersection I, diverging point II and converging point III.

In the movement of the vehicle along a single portion of the conductor, interference or contact between successive vehicles is eliminated by selectively energizing a'holding coil or beacon 85 rearwardly of the vehicle to produce a signal that is sensed by the coil 33 on the vehicle to stop the vehicle, (FIG. 7). The coils 85 are selectively energized by bistable devices 86 of the type heretofore described which are electrically connected so that they normally permit current flow through the conductor path. However, as a vehicle passes each bistable device 86, the permanent magnet 31 on the vehicle momentarily interrupts the flow of current through the main conductor so that current will flow through the holding circuit 88 of the bistable device energizing the holding coil 85 rearwardly of the vehicle and in the path of the succeeding vehicle. As the preceding vehicle moves past the bistable device 86, the permanent magnet thereon momentarily completes a circuit to a monostable device 89 that is electrically convected to the succeeding bistable device 86 and momentarily shorts the holding circuit 88 thereof to deenergize the holding coil 85. The arrangement is such that one bistable device 86 is actuated to energize its respective coil 85 before the monostable device 89 is actuated to deenergize the previously energized holding coil a.

The manner in which such a blocking or stopping system is utilized at a point of intersection such as intersection II in FIG. 1 is shown schematically in FIG. 8 wherein the conventional wiring of FIG. 4 is enclosed in broken lines. Where a plurality of vehicles are used, in addition, bistable devices 86 that control holding coils 85 and are reset by monostable devices 89 are provided along the length of the intersecting guide path conductors. However, each bistable device 86 not only energizes its respective holding coil 85 but, in addition, energizes an additional holding coil 90 along the opposite path of the conductor so that a vehicle approaching along the intersecting path will be stopped until the first vehicle passes through. It should be noted that the holding coils 85 and 90 are schematically shown side by side for simplicity, but in actual installations may be laid one on top of another, or in the same slot in the floor, so that one sensor will sense either coil 85 or coil 90 or both when they are energized.

Similarly, as shown in FIG. 9, where multiple vehicles are used at the point of divergence, a bistable device 86 is provided on both the main and diverging paths for energizing holding coils 85 for interrupting the movement of a succeeding vehicle. As shown, appropriate holding coils 85 are providedfor controlling the movement along the main path, the divergent path and the branch path so that it is not possible that one vehicle will overtake another.

As shown in FIG. 10, in the case of the converging point III in FIG. 1, the bistable devices 86 not only energize a holding coil 85 for stopping a succeeding vehicle but, in addition, energize a holding coil 91 along the converging path to interrupt a vehicle that may be coming along the converging path toward the point of intersection. In the system shown in FIG. 10, additional monostable devices 92, 93 are provided. A vehicle passing over device 92 will actuate B module 86-1. The vehicle, in turn, passes over device 93 and deactivates B module 86-2. This effectively transfersthe hold command from 86-2 to 86-1 so that device 89-3 will reset the hold command 86-1 as the vehicle passes over 89-3. Also 89-3 will reset the holding of the intersection.

The manner in which the electrical connections are made in the area of the guide path between diverging point II and converging point III is shown in FIG. 11 wherein return paths 69a, 78a are provided between the portions 72a and 69 and the portions 78 and 72b, respectively. The cross hatching represents areas in which the current flow is in opposite directions so that there is no net signal which would interfere with steering.

It can be seen that in each of the path control connections that are made by the various monostable or bistable devices, a continuous circuit is maintained both in the main and what might be termed divergent or convergent branch paths. As a result the uniform maintenance of current supply is substantially insured throughout the entire conductor.

Each of the monostable and bistable devices are inserted in the floor preferably in small capsules so that they can be actuated as desired by appropriate devices on the vehicle such as permanent or electromagnets.

Although the use of the modules has heretofore been described in connection with the control of the energization of one or two paths in a guide path, the modules may also be utilized to control more than two paths.

CONTROL SYSTEM -SUMMARY Referring to FIG. 12 which is a schematic diagram of the interrelationship between the control system on the vehicle and the path control system along the path, the horizontal line represents the floor which has embedded therein a conductor heretofore described. The vehicle supports sensor means 30 in the form of coils which are utilized to actuate a steering control for operating a steering motor to steer the front wheel of the vehicle and follow the path.

The monostable and bistable modules A, B and S which control the selection of energization of portions of the guide path at the decision points and the holding loops which provide a signal for stopping the vehicle are provided in the floor.

The vehicle also supports permanent magnet 31 that actuates the monostable and bistable modules A and B and electromagnet 32 that actuates the bistable decision point module S and sometimes A. In addition, a sensor senses the energization of a holding coil to stop the vehicle.

Permanent magnet 31 is mounted along the centerline of the tractor and actuates all modules in line therewith of the A or B type. Electromagnet 32 is mounted a predetermined set distance from the centerline of the vehicle and actuates all modules in the floor a set distance from the centerline of the vehicle, the modules being of the S or A type.

As shown, the vehicle supports a program into which the operator sets a signal determining the destination of the vehicle. into this program, a code sensor provides a signal depending upon the reading from signals along the floor. Specifically, magnets embedded in predetermined manner in predetermined locations in the floor produce signals that are read by a code sensor and compared in the programmer to produce a stop signal or a path control signal. The stop signal causes the drive motor to be deenergized and the brake to be energized. An appropriate path control signal selectively energizes the electromagnet 32 so that the proper decision will be made at any decision point, like diverging point II, to guide the vehicle through the shortest path. In the event that there is a failure of a reading signal sensing the guide path, for example, due to deenergization of the guide path, a stop signal is provided to the start-stop control for stopping the vehicle.

I claim:

1. A switch device for placement in a floor comprising a casmg,

an armature in said casing having an end thereof exposed' whereby when said casing is placed in the floor, the end of said armature extends and faces upwardly,

a reed switch positioned beneath said armature,

and encapsulating material surrounding said armature and said reed switch and filling said casing,

said armature comprising angularly related armature plates.

2. The combination set forth in claim 1 including a plastic support to which the armature plates are adhered.

3. The combination set forth in claim 2 wherein said plastic support has a hollow opening in which said reed switch is positioned.

4. The combination set forth in claim 3 wherein said armature plates, plastic support and reed switch comprise a subassembly,

and an insulating coating applied to said subassembly.

5. The combination set forth in claim 4 wherein said encapsulating material comprises epoxy resin.

6. The combination set forth in claim 5 wherein said reed switch comprises a monostable reed switch.

7. The combination set forth in claim 5 wherein said reed switch comprises a bistable reed switch.

I i t i t

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3249714 *Feb 13, 1963May 3, 1966Cutler Hammer IncMagnetically operable switching device
US3359385 *Jun 9, 1966Dec 19, 1967Caterpillar Tractor CoFlow sensing device
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US5663879 *Oct 26, 1992Sep 2, 1997North American Philips CorporationMethod and apparatus for smooth control of a vehicle with automatic recovery for interference
US5723835 *May 29, 1996Mar 3, 1998Gilmore; Glendell N.Composite reed switch-bracket
US6305484 *Mar 31, 2000Oct 23, 2001Leblanc Edward L.Automated aircraft towing vehicle system
US6834980Jun 5, 2003Dec 28, 2004Kabushiki Kaisha T An TIllumination lamp equipment
Classifications
U.S. Classification335/151
International ClassificationH01H36/00, G05D1/02, B65G47/49, B65G47/48
Cooperative ClassificationH01H36/0006, G05D1/0265, B65G47/496
European ClassificationB65G47/49B, H01H36/00B, G05D1/02E12W