Ford Using Robots to Improve "Built Ford Tough" Durability Testing of its Trucks

  Ford Using Robots to Improve "Built Ford Tough" Durability Testing of its

PR Newswire

DEARBORN, Mich., June 15, 2013

DEARBORN, Mich., June 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

  oFord is first automaker to develop robotic technology that drives vehicles
    during new accelerated high-impact on-road and off-road durability testing
  oRobotically driven vehicles ideally suited for durability test conditions
    that could prove too taxing for human drivers
  oNew technology used to ensure Ford trucks, including the all-new Transit
    van family, are Built Ford Tough

Ford engineers have developed the industry's first robotic test driving
program – now in use at the company's Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich.
– to meet demands that Ford trucks undergo ever more strenuous Built Ford
Tough testing with greater frequency.

(Photo: )

The pilot program has been used most recently for durability testing of Ford's
all-new full-size Transit van, which launches in 2014.

"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.

"Robotic testing allows us to do both," he says. "We accelerate durability
testing while simultaneously increasing the productivity of our other programs
by redeploying drivers to those areas, such as noise level and vehicle
dynamics testing."

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.

The robotically driven vehicles are expected to repeatedly perform tests on
torturous surfaces with names like Silver Creek, Power Hop Hill and Curb Your
Enthusiasm. The 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.

All North American Ford trucks must pass this battery of durability tests
before they're certified for customer use. 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

The use of robots now accelerates this testing, allowing an unlimited number
of repeats until Ford engineers are satisfied with the results. Robots also
allow Ford to develop even more challenging durability tests to build tougher

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.

"We're very excited to work with Ford for autonomous vehicle testing," said
Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions Inc. "The reliability, durability and
performance enhancements we've developed with Ford will not only help them
reach their safety and accuracy goals, but will also improve vehicle
automation in other areas such as mining, agriculture and the U.S. military."

Ford engineers designed and deployed the robotic technology with two goals in
mind: protecting human drivers and engineering Ford trucks to be tougher than

"The goal here was not to develop a truly autonomous vehicle that can drive
itself on city streets," said Payne. "Our objective was to create a test track
solution that allows for this type of intense testing that could take our
vehicles to the most extreme limits of their engineering while ensuring the
safety of all involved."

About Autonomous Solutions, Inc.
For more than 12 years, Autonomous Solutions, Inc. has been a world leader in
unmanned ground vehicle systems and components. From their northern Utah
headquarters, ASI serves clients in military, agriculture, industrial/mining,
and automotive proving ground industries with solutions ranging from driver
assistance up to full vehicle autonomy. ASI's world-class engineering staff is
dedicated to ideals of innovation, quality, simplicity, and safety.

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company(NYSE:F), a global automotive industry leader based in
Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six
continents. With about 175,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the
company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides
financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information
regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit

SOURCE Ford Motor Company

Contact: Ron Hall, 646.220.4973,; Dru Brown, 435.227.1142,
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