The complicated knot of legal and logistical problems that comes with releasing automated (or so-called “self-driving”) cars to the public is still most likely years out from being entirely unwound, but Ford Motor Company has found at least one arena in which the tech can be put to work right away: endurance testing.
Before a new car is put into production, it is submitted to a rigorous testing regimen lasting hundreds of thousands of miles, during which time engineers essentially buckle-in and wait for something to rattle or fall off. On Tuesday, reports The Verge, Ford Motor Company announced its plans to help facilitate the process with automated driving technology, forming a partnership with Utah-based firm ASI (Automated Solutions) to produce and sell “robotic testing kits” to other automakers.
The kit effectively turns any vehicle into a remote-controlled car with some elements of autonomy; an equipped vehicle can be programmed to stick to a course to within one inch of error, and sensor-reading computers execute algorithms to help with obstacle-avoidance. In addition to how these testing kits might make endurance testing less costly and time-consuming for automakers, they could also spare engineers the pain and torment of having to drive continuously over “surfaces that include broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, rough gravel, mud pits and oversized speed bumps,” says Ford Motor Company.
Several automakers have already placed orders for these “robotic testing kits,” although Ford Motor Co. couldn’t say who.