In 1913, Henry Ford revolutionized car-making with the first moving assembly line, an innovation that made piecing together new vehicles faster and more efficient. Some hundred years later, Ford is now using artificial intelligence to eke more speed out of today’s manufacturing lines.

At a Ford Transmission Plant in Livonia, Michigan, the station where robots help assemble torque converters now includes a system that uses AI to learn from previous attempts how to wiggle the pieces into place most efficiently. Inside a large safety cage, robot arms wheel around grasping circular pieces of metal, each about the diameter of a dinner plate, from a conveyor and slot them together.

Ford uses technology from a startup called Symbio Robotics that looks at the past few hundred attempts to determine which approaches and motions appeared to work best. A computer sitting just outside the cage shows Symbio’s technology sensing and controlling…

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