state-of-the-art Weather Factory has never been busier. Used to simulate a
range of extreme conditions under one roof, it has enabled engineers to test
vehicles in a way that is less impacted by travel limitations than real-world
so realistic are the simulated conditions that even the most experienced human
test drivers may become tired or unwell, for example when undertaking altitude
Ford has recruited two robot test drivers, nicknamed by the team as Shelby and
Miles, to help take the strain, especially on altitude tests where a key
requirement can be that the test is replicated perfectly multiple times.
How it works
in Cologne, Germany, Ford’s Weather Factory helps ensure drivers can rely on
vehicles that have endured conditions that are found in the Sahara Desert, in
Siberia, and atop the tallest Alpine peaks.
human drivers, wind tunnel testing – in particular at high altitude – requires
numerous safety protocols, such as having oxygen bottles, medical equipment and
a paramedic on-site, while driver health is constantly monitored.
robot test driver is able to operate at temperatures ranging from -40°C to
+80°C as well as at extreme altitudes – and can be set up and programmed for
different driving styles.
robot test driver’s legs extend to the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals,
with one arm positioned to change gear and the other used to start and stop the
engine. Ford continues to conduct real-world testing in European locations and
across the world, including the Grossglockner mountain in Austria and the snowy
Arjeplog region in Sweden.
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
Frank Seelig, supervisor, Wind Tunnel Testing, Ford of Europe.
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