How Robots are Being Used to Test the Safety of Self Driving Cars

Monday, July 8, 2013

How Robots are Being Used to Test the Safety of Self Driving Cars

Ford outfitted vans with robotic controls that allow the vehicle to drive around, steer the vehicle, change gears, and utilize the brakes when faced with obstacles or potential hazards. The system is currently deployed to test the vehicles, but will very soon be consumerized and by the next decade your vehicle may be a self-driving car.

With all of the advances in technology and safety features with vehicles it was only a matter of time until brands like Ford started to make cars that could be robotically operated in order to gain valuable data about safety features and operations.

Ford has been able to outfit vans with robotic controls that allow the vehicle to drive around, steer the direction of the vehicle, change gears, and utilize the brakes when faced with obstacles or potential hazards.

There are benefits to using robotically operated vehicles to gain data about the wear and tear that the vehicle is subjected to because of the fact that regardless of how realistic the driving experience may be for the vehicle, there are a lot of variables that human control would alter for the wear and tear of the vehicle over time.

Benefits to Robotic Testing

As mentioned before, there are a lot of benefits to utilizing robotic technology in order to gain information about the self-driving capabilities of some vehicles. One of the major benefits to utilizing robotic technology to test drive a vehicle is that the robotic technology can test drive on an obstacle track that is designed to simulate up to ten years of wear and tear, where as a human can only handle one drive at a time. The amount of time that it takes to test that vehicle is streamlined, and a lot of the operations are more efficient and effective with the use of robotic controls. However, this does not change the fact that if a human were in charge, then the operation of the vehicle would be inherently different because of the manual operation of the vehicle.

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One of the other huge benefits to using robotic testing technology is that the human body no longer has to be subjected to the rough conditions of the wear and tear course. Not only does the robot complete the testing in one sitting, it also takes on all of the risk and potential injury associated with the test-driving course. The test-driving course is intended to test the limits of the vehicle and find out what the absolute breaking point of the car is.

If a human were subjected to those conditions more than once a day, the person would risk permanently damaging his or her body or physical condition. Furthermore, there are mental condition implications of becoming involved in an accident or near accident experience, and over time there is the possibility of mental conditions that are associated with being in a near accident state once a day over the course of an extended period of time.

Ford Robotic Self Driving Car

How Does it Work?

There are a series of cameras, sensors, and GPS trackers that are installed in and around the vehicle that allow the robotic technology to make decisions on what action to take in regards to operating the vehicle. The car can be accelerated, and slowed down in regards to potential obstacles. The question does arise; however, what about the potential failure of the technology? There are times when technology simply fails to accomplish what we are asking of it, and therefore the question is asked of the technology in cars. What if this technology fails unexpectedly?

There are a hundred questions raised when it comes to utilizing robotic technology to control the steering, acceleration, yielding, and controls of test-driving vehicles. Many of these questions involve the comparison of technological programming versus the free will to make decisions and react to unforeseen obstacles. The robotically controlled van is set to a pre-programmed course and is on private property. This is not a public area where real people are in danger of being injured if the van strays from the course. The course is designed on private property and is monitored from a remote location. If the van does stray from its course then someone from central control who is monitoring the testing will be able to correct the problem and continue monitoring the vehicle’s progress.

There are many positives when looking at the technological advancements that can be made with the creation and design of vehicles that are tested with robotic controls.


By Bradley TaylorSubscribe to 33rd Square

Bradley Taylor is a writer who focuses on supercars, future car technology, startup businesses and keeping up-to-date with companies like Mercedes, Volkswagen and Jardine Motors. In his spare time he can always find time for classical music and you can always find him on Twitter and Google Plus.