An autonomous robot is self-contained, housing its own controller, and not depending on a central computer for its commands. It navigates its work environment under its own power, usually by rolling on wheels or a track drive.

Robot autonomy might at first seem like a great asset: if a robot functions by itself in a system, then when other parts of the system fail, the robot will keep working. However, in systems where many identical robots are used, autonomy is inefficient. It is better from an economic standpoint to put programs in one central computer that controls all the robots.Insect robots work this way.

Simple robots, like those in assembly lines, are not autonomous. The more complex the task, and the more different things a robot must do, the more autonomy it can have. The most advanced autonomous robots have artificial intelligence (AI).

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