Do you know the ABC of AGVs?

The driverless vehicle industry is full of acronyms and expressions. AGV stands for automated guided vehicle or automatic guided vehicle, LGV means almost the same but indicates that laser is the navigation technology, and IAV is short for … well, let’s find out!

Constantly evolving technology
In 1954, the electronics engineer A. M. Barrett Jr. invented the first automated guided vehicle. It was a modified towing truck, guided by an overhead wire, pulling a trailer in a grocery warehouse.
Today, AGVs create value in a number of ways in production facilities and warehouses. There are three characteristic features – no driver, automatic control and equipped to receive and send information. The vehicles come in many shapes and sizes such as unit loaders, platform carriers, assembly platforms and forklift trucks.
But it doesn’t stop there. In the last ten years, there has been a rapid development of driverless vehicles for the industrial and logistics sectors. Some of them are called AGVs, but many are called something else. Not so strange, as innovation and marketing are about creating new categories where you can divide and conquer. However, as you will see in the next section, the similarities are greater than the differences.

Some common definitions

  • AGV – Automated (or Automatic) Guided Vehicle. A driverless vehicle with a predictable travel route, a control system, and a customized or standardized vehicle platform. Sometimes referred to as a mobile robot. Used for routine movements of items in manufacture, assembly and warehousing.
  • AGVS – Automated Guided Vehicle System. A system that consists of one or several AGVs. The system is often integrated with other systems, such as WMS (Warehouse Management System) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).
  • AGC – Automated Guided Cart. An AGV with basic functionality, designed to follow a magnetic tape and carry or draw loads. Sometimes used as a flexible alternative to conveyor systems, as you just have to move the tapes to create a new layout for the line.
  • IAV – Intelligent Autonomous Vehicles. AGVs and mobile robots performing motion control tasks in unstructured or partially structured environments. The technology is under development, and the aim is that IAVs should be able to perform complex navigation and motion tasks in co-operation with each other, with human-operated systems, and with the surrounding environment.
  • LGV – Laser Guided Vehicle. AGV using laser as navigation technology.


  •  Autonomous vehicles. AGV or mobile robot equipped with an autonomous controller allowing the vehicle to take any travel route.
  • Driverless vehicles. All vehicles mentioned in this text are driverless. The same expression is used in the automotive industry for cars that can drive themselves.
  • Mobile robots. Small vehicles designed to move small loads. No need for a fixed navigation system such as tape or reflectors, as mobile robots learn how to find their way to almost any spot in a facility. Just like a robot vacuum cleaner in your home. In some cases, AGVs are referred to as mobile robots.
  • Self-driving vehicles. Collective name for numerous vehicles designed for land, air and sea applications. The category includes vehicles that could be referred to as AGVs. Just as for driverless vehicles, the expression self-driving vehicle is used for cars with no need for a driver.

What’s in a name?
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” is a famous quote from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, claiming that the name of things does not affect what they are. Even if there are many ways to describe driverless vehicles for industries and warehouses, the basic principle is still the same: Moving things safely, efficiently and cost-effectively from A to B.

Share:Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone
AGVs – Why you should turn your forklifts into AGVs
April 6, 2016 Read more to find out how converting your forklifts into automated guided vehicles increases the efficiency, productivity and safety of your material handling. Read more...
The human factor is not just another factor
November 11, 2015 Safety is becoming increasingly important in material handling and warehousing. Read more...
The lean way to go
March 23, 2016 The dream of realizing the full potential of lean in your plant. Can AGVs be the kick-start you need? Read more...
Ask a question