Published on November 4th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Ford to let other companies use their robotic testing methods
Ford is licensing robotic test driving technology to other automakers. The industry-first technology saves time and spares human drivers from such physically demanding tasks as driving over curbs and through potholes in durability testing. 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. Now, other automakers are set to benefit from Ford’s patented technology.
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 preprogrammed course, and the vehicle’s position is tracked by cameras in a central control room and via GPS accurate to plus/minus one inch. Should the vehicle stray 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.
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 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.