Ford's Jeff Bledsoe showed us how they perform durability testing on their newest transit van at their Dearborn test track. The catch? We were just along for the ride - no one was actually in the driver's seat. They're using an autonomous robotic system to save their drivers from having to endure the physical strain that comes from long hours of testing on rugged roads.
randyzeitvogel commented on July 23, 2014
Back in 1995 I worked on a project known as Chrysler's Automated Durability Road. We didn't have GPS for guidance, instead we followed wires in the ground and read RFID transponder unique IDs as we passed over them. We used what has now evolved into WiFi to communicate with the vehicles, and we had a base station that could coordinate the movements of more than one vehicle. During my tenure on the project, we managed to control two vehicle simultaneously for a short period of time. We could guide the cars from the apron on to the pave (very rough Belgian block road), and we could guide the trucks through the truck event lane. My tenure on the project was fairly short and I never saw the project actually go into 'production'. I know that we rattled a Dodge Intrepid badly enough that things began to leak and squeak in a couple of thousand miles. I heard through the grapevine that the electronics we used were also rattled to death by the vibration. It was also one of the most interesting projects that I have ever worked on, and here we are almost 20 years later and it is interesting to see how Ford did it.