Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. will license its robotic test-driving technology to other automakers, which Ford engineers says saves time and spares human motorists from driving through potholes and over rough terrain for durability testing.
"The enhancements we've made with Ford will improve the durability, reliability, and performance of these systems — allowing for even more accurate testing and higher-quality vehicles," says Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions Inc., the manufacturer of the software Ford's technology is based on.
Chris Danowski, director of technology commercialization for Ford Global Technologies, says the technology offers a control module that's installed in the test vehicle, which controls vehicle steering. Ford developed bell crank actuators that control the throttle and brake pedals with a metal rod. He says 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.
Danowski says if the vehicle strays from the course, engineers have the ability to stop the vehicle and correct the direction. Onboard sensors can command a full stop if a pedestrian or another vehicle strays into the test vehicle's path.
Danowski says durability testing can compress 10 years of daily driving abuse into courses that are a few hundred feet long. Surfaces include broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, rough gravel, mud pits, and oversized speed bumps.
Ford granted a patent license to Autonomous Solutions, providing the company rights to incorporate and use its bell crank actuators in the systems it sells to other automakers and suppliers to test cars, trucks, buses, and military vehicles.
"This robotic testing kit is available to purchase directly from Autonomous Solutions immediately," Danowski says. "Several automotive OEMs have already placed orders to purchase systems for their own testing."