Ford’s New Robots Put a Car through Its Paces. Ford has installed Shelby and Miles robots to test their cars in harsh environmental conditions.
Ford’s Weather Factory in Cologne, Germany is where the robots are located. It opened in 2018 and has since been open to the public. You can see Shelby (or Miles?) in action in the video above. During a test session, you can press various knobs and pedals in order to “drive” your car.
It involves testing cars in extreme weather conditions, high temperatures and heavy rain.
Robotic Test Drivers
Ford invented the concept of robotic test drivers after its human drivers became tired or unwell in certain environments. The automaker stated that using humans to test wind tunnels at high altitudes required safety measures such as oxygen bottles and medical equipment. Drivers’ health also needs constant monitoring.
However, Shelby and Miles can work comfortably in temperatures between -40°C and +80°C with few issues at altitude. They can even work while taking a break.
Frank Seelig, Ford’s Wind Tunnel Test Supervisor, said that the two new drivers were a great addition to the team. They can handle the tough endurance tests at high altitudes, and in hot temperatures. We can conduct tests throughout the night, without having to worry about the driver needing a sandwich or a bathroom break once the robot is in the driver’s seat.
Ford mentions that real-world testing is still conducted in different countries. This suggests that Ford’s human drivers still have a job.
Shelby and Miles are named after Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, key figures in the development of Ford GT40. However, this footage suggests that Ford may require another robot to assist this man stuck outside the vehicle while it is being tested.
Ford’s robotic drivers are just one example of its ongoing interest in robotic technology. In recent years, factory workers have begun to use robotic exoskeletons in order to reduce fatigue and injury on the assembly line. It’s also interested in bipedal delivery robots to complement its autonomous cars.
It also gave Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot, built by Boston Dynamics, a test run. The robot helped map a Dearborn plant. And we can’t forget “robust”, based on Ford’s measurements of an “average large man”, which Ford uses to measure the durability of its car seats.