Ford and ASI team up to license robotic driving for vehicle durability proving tracks

Fitting a robotic autonomous driving apparatus to vehicles to drive them around  demanding test circuits improves the repeatability amd reliability of the trails and saves test drivers from an arduous and physically tiring task.

US robotic firm Autonomous Systems, Inc (ASI) is to team up with Ford to develop systems to use robots to drive vehicles on proving grounds, which use demanding test tracks to determine their durability against rough road conditions. The companies will license the technology they develop to other automotive manufacturers.

Durability testing is hard on vehicles and drivers; using robots leads to more repeatable tests and less risk to people

Durability tests demand that vehicles are driven multiple times over extremely demanding courses, including up and down kerbs, through gravel, oversized, irregular speed bumps, broken concrete and heavily-potholed surfaces. The courses are designed to put the vehicle through the equivalent of ten years’ regular driving within a few hundred metres. This is demanding on drivers as well as vehicles, so robotic driving allows the vehicles to be put under stress without putting anyone’s health or safety at risk.

Part of ASI’s contribution to the venture is its Moebius command and control software system, which establishes repeatable paths for the vehicles, ensuring generation of consistent data throughout the test. Ford’s contribution includes its two-year long development of a bell crank component; a double-ended lever system that allows accelerator and brake pedals to be operated using a single metal rod. Ford has granted ASI a patent license to use its bell cranks in systems it sells to makers of cars, buses, commercial and military vehicles.

The robotic system operates the vehicles manual controls: steering, brake and throttle

“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,’ said Mel Torrie, ASI’s chief executive. The robotic kit will be available for purchase direct from ASI, added Chris Danowski, director of technology commercialisation and intellectual property at Ford, who noted that several automotive companies have already placed orders.