Ford has developed its own robotic technology to test its cars in situations that simply aren’t doable for human drivers. They’re the first automaker to use this technology which allows for high-impact on-road and off-road durability testing.
This robotic technology is currently being used for trucks, including the new Transit van line which launches next year. It will help assure that vehicles make the grade and are truly “Built Ford Tough.” The program is currently in use at the company’s Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Michigan.
In the past, with human drivers behind the wheel during strenuous testing, their driving times had to be limited for safety. This made it challenging to keep testing on schedule with vehicle development times.
Robotic technology allows for more testing in a shorter time period without worry of harm to human drivers. This means that not only can they get through testing more quickly, but that they can reassign those drivers to other areas where human drivers are required.
Test vehicles are installed with a robotic control module that handles steering, acceleration and braking over a preprogrammed course. During testing, the vehicle’s position is constantly monitored through a combination of cameras and GPS accurate to within one inch.
Engineers monitoring the process from a control room can stop the vehicle to make course corrections and then restart the test as needed. Additionally, onboard sensors can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if anything strays into its path.
The use of robotic technology makes it much easier for engineers to repeat arduous testing over and over until they’re satisfied with the results without falling behind schedule. It also allows for tests that couldn’t be done at all with human drivers due to the potential danger of such tests.
This robotic technology not only protects human test drivers while a vehicle is in development, but helps ensure the safety and comfort of drivers in the real world once a vehicle comes to market.
Nicole Wakelin fell in love with cars as a teenager when she got to go for a ride in a Ferrari. It was red and it was fast and that was all that mattered. Game over. She considers things a bit more carefully now, but still has a weakness for fast, beautiful cars. Nicole also writes for NerdApproved and GeekMom.