How Ford Uses Robots to Test its Vehicles
Automaker Ford says its engineers have developed the industry’s first robotic test driving program – now in use at the company’s Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich.
The program aims to meet demands that Ford trucks undergo ever more strenuous Built Ford Tough testing with greater frequency.
The pilot program has been used most recently for durability testing of Ford’s all-new full-size Transit van, which launches in 2014.
Meanwhile, DreamWorks Studios and Ford Motor Company have announced an exclusive partnership for the feature film “Need for Speed.”
The film will include significant integration of Ford products, along with extensive media promotion by Ford at the time of the film’s release on March 14, 2014. (Read: DreamWorks and Ford Making Need for Speed Film)
“Some of the tests we do on our commercial trucks for North America are so strenuous that we limit the exposure time for human drivers,” says Dave Payne, manager, vehicle development operations. “The challenge is completing testing to meet vehicle development time lines while keeping our drivers comfortable.”
The durability technology includes a robotic control module installed in the test vehicle that controls vehicle steering, acceleration and braking. The module is set to follow a preprogrammed course, and the vehicle’s position is tracked via cameras in a central control room and GPS accurate to plus/minus one inch.
Should the vehicle stray from its programmed course, engineers have the ability to stop the vehicle, course correct as necessary, and restart the test. Onboard sensors can command a full stop if a pedestrian or another vehicle strays into the path.
Ford engineers worked with Utah-based Autonomous Solutions Inc. to design and manufacture the software and components that enable autonomous, robotic operation of the test vehicle.