Ford is licensing robotic test driving technology to other automakers that would save time and help drivers with tasks such as driving over curbs and through potholes in durability testing, according to Ford.
Robotic durability testing includes a control module installed in the test vehicle that controls vehicle steering. Ford-developed bell crank actuators control the throttle and brake pedals with a metal rod. The module is set to follow a pre-programmed course, and the vehicle’s position is tracked by cameras in a central control room and via GPS.
If the vehicle strays from its course, engineers have the ability to stop it, course correct as necessary, and restart the test. Onboard sensors can command a full stop if a pedestrian or another vehicle strays into the test vehicle’s path. These tests can compress 10 years of daily driving abuse into courses just a few hundred yards long.
This technology is helping to ensure the all-new 2017 F-Series Super Duty is durable. Super Duty has undergone the equivalent of years of abuse and durability testing in a short amount of time to ensure it will hold up to a lifetime of the hard work its owners expect.
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. Patented new design changes simplify installation. Other changes enable fewer modifications to test vehicles and improved system performance with better component response. The system can quickly be deactivated, allowing a test engineer to gain control of the vehicle from the driver’s seat.
Ford engineers worked with Utah-based Autonomous Solutions Inc. (ASI) to further develop ASI’s software and components that enable autonomous, robotic options of test vehicles.