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Audi plans to use new human-robot cooperation technology at more plants (Photo: Audi)

There's nothing new about robots building a major part of the car, but Audi has introduced a new process that lets these robots cooperate more directly with human plant workers.

The German premium car maker said it has deployed a robot that works hand-in-hand with humans, without a safety barrier in between. The technology enhances efficiency in the plant, Audi said.

"The factory of the future will feature increasing interaction between man and machine," said Audi Production Boss Hubert Waltl. "That allows us to automate routine operations and to optimize ergonomically unfavorable workplaces."

The human-robot cooperation is put to use in Audi's Ingolstadt plant for a repetitive task that, in the past, has led to back problems for workers who had to bend over to take coolant expansion tanks from their boxes. Now, a robot equipped with a camera and an integrated suction cup takes over this task.

Said Johann Hegel, head of Audi's assembly technology development: "The robot becomes an assembly assistant operating at the same speed as the assembly worker, and not the other way around."

Audi said it will deploy the new process in more of its plants, including at facilities outside Germany.