American automaker, Ford, has become the first in its industry to institute a system of durability testing that relies not on human drivers but on robots to achieve a more efficient and consistent level of measurement regarding the reliability and endurance of its cars.
The company partnered with Utah based, Autonomous Solutions Inc, a robotics company focusing on unmanned vehicles, to develop the automotive industry’s first robotic test driving program. The system eliminates the need to place drivers in the usually tedious, and sometimes dangerous, tasks that make up durability testing, while at the same time producing a more accurate data set along a shorter timeline.
According to a statement by Ford,
Until now testing speeds and repetitions for specific scenarios were limited due to restrictions placed on human drivers, who were allowed to drive certain rigorous courses only once a day.
Since a robotic system can essentially drive continuously without requiring a break, the testing period can be significantly compressed while collecting more data and reproducing tests as often as necessary. This method can replicate 10 years of daily driving abuse into a much shorter timeline along demanding surfaces like broken concrete, mud pits and oversized speed bumps.
Operation of the vehicles is handled by a series of gears and motors; onboard sensors are used to detect pedestrians, vehicles, and other potential hazards. The robotic system controls steering, acceleration, and braking and follows a predetermined program based on meticulous and precise mapping of the course as well as a GPS guidance system that is accurate to within one inch.
According to Vehicle Development Operation Manager, David Payne, “the goal was not to develop a truly autonomous vehicle.” Rather to simply create a solution for more effectively and efficiently testing durability. Still, developments like this along with experimentation in self driving technology from companies like Mercedes, Volvo, Lexus, and Google seem to indicate an overall industry push toward eventual consumer vehicle automation.
Watch Ford’s demonstration video below: