Ford’s state-of-the-art Weather Factory, which does a range of extreme conditions under one roof, has enabled engineers to test vehicles in a way less impacted by limitations than real-world testing.
According to Quickpic, the stimulated conditions are so realistic – that even the most experienced human test drives may become tired or unwell. Ford has recruited two robot test drivers called, Shelby and Miles, to assist in altitude tests where a key requirement can be that the test is replicated perfectly more than once.
How does it work?
Ford’s Weather Factory (located in Cologne, Germany), helps to ensure that drivers can rely on their vehicles in conditions such as the Sahara Desert, in Siberia, and atop tall Alpine peaks. For human drivers, wind tunnel testing – at high altitude – requires many safety protocols such as, oxygen bottles, medical equipment and a paramedic on-site to constantly monitor the driver’s health.
The robot driver can operate at temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +80 degrees and extreme altitudes. The robot can be set up and programmed for different driving styles. The robot test driver’s legs extend to the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals, with one arm to change gear and the other to start or stop the engine.
Ford continues to conduct real-world testing in European locations and globally, including the Grosslockner mountain in Austria and the snowy Arjeplog region in Sweden.
“These two new drivers are fantastic additions to the team, as they can take on the challenging endurance tests at high altitudes and in hot temperatures. Once the robot is in the driver’s seat, we can run tests through the night without ever having to worry that the driver will need a sandwich or a bathroom break”, says the manufacturer.