Ford recruits robot drivers to test vehicles in extreme conditions

Ford has recruited two robots, nicknamed Shelby and Miles, to test drive the company’s vehicles in extreme conditions.

Located in Germany, Ford’s state-of-the-art Weather Factory helps to ensure drivers can rely on vehicles that have endured the treacherous conditions that are found in the Sahara Desert, in Siberia, and atop the tallest Alpine peaks.

The factory simulates a range of extreme conditions, some of which even the most experienced human test drivers may become tired or unwell, especially when undertaking altitude testing.

For human drivers, wind tunnel testing – in particular at high altitude – requires numerous safety protocols, such as having oxygen bottles, medical equipment, and a paramedic on-site, while driver health is constantly monitored.

Each robot test driver is able to operate at temperatures ranging from -40oC to + 80oC as well as extreme altitudes – and can be set up and programmed for different driving styles.

The robotic legs extend to the accelerator, brake, and clutch pedals, with one arm positioned to change gear and the other used to start and stop the engine.

“These two new drivers are fantastic additions to the team, as they can take on the challenging and endurance tests at high altitudes and in hot temperatures,” said Frank Seelig, Supervisor, Wind Tunnel Testing, Ford of Europe.

“Once the robot is in the driver’s seat, we can run tests through the night without ever having to worry that the driver will need a sandwich or bathroom break.”

Source: Ford | Ford recruits robot test drivers to help ensure vehicles are ready to face the toughest conditions

12 August 2021

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