Ford reports that hey have already received orders from several automakers.Robotic durability testing includes a control module on the test vehicle that controls vehicle steering. Ford-developed bell crank actuators that control the throttle and brake pedals with a metal rod. The module is set to follow a preprogrammed course. The vehicle’s position is tracked by cameras in a central control room and via accurate GPS.
Onboard sensors can initiate a full stop if a pedestrian or another vehicle strays into the test vehicle’s path. The system can quickly be deactivated, allowing a test engineer to gain control of the vehicle from the driver’s seat.
Robotically driven vehicles are expected to repeatedly perform tests on torturous surfaces with names like Silver Creek, Power Hop Hill and Curb Your Enthusiasm. These tests can compress 10 years of daily driving abuse into courses just a few hundred yards long, with surfaces that include broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, rough gravel, mud pits and oversized speed bumps.
Ford engineers worked with Utah-based Autonomous Solutions Inc. (ASI) to further develop the software and components that enable autonomous, robotic operation of test vehicles.
Ford has granted a patent license to ASI, providing the company rights to incorporate and use its bell crank actuators in the systems ASI sells to other automakers and suppliers to test cars, trucks, buses and military vehicles.
In use since 2013, Ford’s latest generation of robotic testing technology has seen significant improvements in reaction time and accuracy of the throttle and brake.