Published on Wednesday 19 June 2013 in Van News
Look carefully at the picture...
Rest assured, you are not imagining things - the Ford Transit is indeed driving itself! No, this is not the latest offer from Vanarama; rather, Ford has been showing off its innovative Autonomous testing, which uses robotic control to eliminate the need for drivers from many of its testing procedures. Currently based at its Michigan Proving Grounds in America, Ford hopes to introduce the new durability testing procedure to test tracks worldwide.
This is good news for Ford van drivers and demonstrates just what lengths Ford will go to when ensuring the safety and performance of its van range. The robotic testing procedure is currently being used on the new 2015 Ford Transit van that will arrive in the US next year. With Fords ambitious expansion plans for the testing procedure, we wouldn't be surprised if UK models will soon be benefiting from autonomous testing too.
We won't be hearing the death knell for test drivers just yet though. According to Ford, robotically driven vehicles are ideally suited to durability testing that could prove too taxing or monotonous for human drivers. The system works by placing a GPS receiver on the roof of the van which gets signals from satellites and ground-based repeaters allowing the computer to know where the vehicle is on the track within 1 inch accuracy. A ring gear controls the steering wheel while linear accelerators handle the pedals; all the systems can be removed in 30 minutes to allow for normal driving by a human. The testing is monitored by a staffed control room.
Its benefits are clear - by enabling several Ford Transits to pilot themselves over a repeating test loop at once, the results will be highly accurate, enabling faster development times and therefore lower costs.
The new technology will help ensure that all Ford commercial vehicles including the Transit will be built to the exacting standards which Ford expects.