TARVA, a towing robot from France, tows a car onto a custom-designed towing truck at Tow Atlanta’s Scottdale, Georgia, location on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. Tow Atlanta has been investing in technology such as the TARVA, the Tow Atlanta Recovery Vehicle Autobot, to assist with safely towing both luxury and ordinary cars in Atlanta. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Rebecca Wright
Photo: Rebecca Wright

Atlanta tow company uses robots to keep up with fast-paced industry

For luxury owners, there’s almost nothing worse than having your high-end vehicle damaged during a tow.

And with all of the high-tech components in new automobiles today, the threat to these six-figure vehicles is even greater.

One Atlanta company, however, is meeting high-tech with higher-tech to help its customers avoid costly mishaps.

Tow Atlanta, based in Scottdale, recently purchased two robots that have been engineered to lift luxury cars from tight spaces without leaving a scratch.

General manager Syre Perkins said the company, which has been around five years, purchased the robots last year in response to changing car designs.

“With these vehicles getting high-tech, the way you tow them over the last 30 years has changed,” he said.

Syre Perkins, general manager at Tow Atlanta, shows off some of the technology the towing company uses at their Scottdale, Georgia, location on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Tow Atlanta has been investing in technology such as the TARVA, the Tow Atlanta Recovery Vehicle Autobot, to assist with safely towing both luxury and ordinary cars in Atlanta. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Rebecca Wright

Perkins doesn’t have an engineering background but spent a year designing one of the robots — the zero-degree load angle truck, or flatbed truck, — with Drive Products, a Canada-based truck equipment company and Miller Industry, a towing company. This robot is similar to its other flatbeds but holds more weight, and is designed to lift a car without damaging its undercarriage.

“I worked with their engineers, back-and-forth,” Perkins said. “When you think you’ve got a design down, there would be a major engineering flaw.”

The tedious and time-consuming process resulted in a $200,000 21-foot flatbed — the only one of its kind in Atlanta, Perkins said.


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The company also purchased, TARVA, or Tow Atlanta’s Recovery Vehicle Autobot, a device that can enter tight spaces, like parking decks. TARVA was custom-designed in France and cost $125,000. The device has been in Europe for eight years and can carry up to 8,500 pounds — more than twice the average weight of a car.

The robot loads the pricey cars onto flatbeds by first picking up the front wheels and then going underneath the car to lift the rear wheels. A remote control is used to maneuver the car onto a flatbed truck.

“That’s the technology,” he said. “It’s autonomous. It picks [the vehicle] up by all four wheels and you don’t have the human error. The modern technology, that’s the way [the industry] is going.”

Experts who follow how technology is disrupting and changing all types of industries - from farming to manufacturing say robots are becoming more common in places outside the U.S.

Syre Perkins, general manager at Tow Atlanta, shows off some of the technology the towing company uses at their Scottdale, Georgia, location on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Tow Atlanta has been investing in technology such as the TARVA, the Tow Atlanta Recovery Vehicle Autobot, to assist with safely towing both luxury and ordinary cars in Atlanta. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Rebecca Wright

“I do think we’re increasingly seeing new robotic technology solving problems,” said Nancey Green Leigh, associate dean of research for the College of Design at Georgia Tech.

There are about 189 robots per 10,000 employees in the United States, according the International Federation of Robotics. The U.S. ranks seventh in the world in robot density, that’s the number of robots per 10,000 employees. By comparison, Korea ranks the highest in robot density with 631 robots per 10,000 employees.

While these towing robots are extremely helpful for companies like Perkins’, she doubts they’ll put many people out of work. The U.S. lags behind other countries, such as Japan and Korea, in robot production and usage, she said.

Leigh said that will probably change over time.

“[Robots] create a whole new segment of the economy as well as entrepreneurship that solve problems.”


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