“Some of the tests we do on our commercial trucks for North America are so strenuous that we limit the exposure time for human drivers,” says Dave Payne, Manager, Vehicle Development Operations for Ford Motor Company. “The challenge is completing testing to meet vehicle development timelines while keeping our drivers comfortable."

Ford announced to the New York Times this weekend the three-year long partnership they have had with ASI to perform driverless durability
testing using vehicle robotics. The technology is designed to help meet Ford's timeline and safety goals by robotically controlling new vehicle models on some of the most punishing durability test tracks Ford has to offer.

"[Ford is] trying to put thousands of miles of abuse on the vehicle as fast as possible so it really beats up on the system," said Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions, Inc. "It takes the durability to a whole new level."

The testing robots are
comprised of a series of rugged mechanical and

Inside view of the durability robot

Inside the 2014 Ford Transit van, the durability robot hums and whirs as it guides the van across brutal durability obstacles.

hydraulic actuators that perform basic driving functions, such as changing gears, steering, accelerating, and braking. Durability testing requirements state that no special modifications be made
to the vehicle being tested, so all actuators and moving parts must be retrofit to a vehicle straight off the factory floor. The first-in-industry program was used most recently to test the durability of the 2014 Ford Transit van.

While the primary reason for robotic testing is to preserve the health of test drivers, Ford has identified several additional benefits from their vehicle automation program. “Robotic testing allows us to accelerate durability testing while simultaneously increasing the productivity of our other programs by