Vehicles being driven by robots is nothing new. We've seen that in Google's self-driving cars, as well as prototypes from Lexus and Audi. However, Ford is putting the technology to a different use. They're using autonomous robots to operate new vehicles for the sole purpose of stress testing them on Ford's race course.
One of the purposes behind using robots to test new vehicles is most notably to prevent humans from having to do it. Testing out vehicles can be pretty stressful on the body, especially if you're going over bumps at high speeds and taking all sorts of sharp turns. Robots, thankfully, aren't as fragile as humans are, and they're able to drive around the track for ages if they could.
Ford teamed up with Autonomous Solutions, Inc to implement robotics inside vehicles that are able to drive cars themselves without any human interaction. The system uses GPS that's accurate up to one inch, which is fairly impressive. This allows up to eight robot-controlled cars allowed on the track at once.
The new system also allows Ford to test out new vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plus, each testing session is exactly the same, so each car gets put through the same exact test every time. A central computer that's monitored by one person gets feed info from the robot-controlled car about its speed and location, and the computer operator can send commands to the car in order to perform specific maneuvers.
Ford says they're the first auto maker to use robots to test vehicles in a closed environment, and they expect to add this technology to even more cars that they plan on stress testing, possibly to the point where all of their cars are driven by robots on the track for most of the time. And of course, we would be surprised if Ford wasn't also working on putting this technology into production cars for the real world.