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Ford now uses robots as test drivers

Because humans are far too fragile in extreme weather

These robots can't see over the dashboard, but they can drive. PHOTO FROM FORD

Well, it looks like it’s time to give up our jobs to our robot overlords (just kidding). But for specific applications, using robots in place of humans may prove to be the better solution—like what Ford is doing for its car-testing program.

The automaker has a state-of-the-art facility in Cologne, Germany, called the Weather Factory. It allows the company to realistically simulate a wide range of weather conditions, like high humidity, extreme temperatures, and low air density at high altitudes.

They can be taught to manipulate different controls. PHOTOS FROM FORD

Sure, cars may be able to withstand these conditions, but the human body can only endure so much. One of the biggest challenges is wind-tunnel testing at high altitudes where a lot of safety protocols must be followed. Some of the requirements include oxygen supplies, medical equipment, and on-site paramedics. The vital signs of the test driver must also be constantly monitored.

So, the solution? Utilize robots instead of humans. The two mechanized drivers nicknamed Shelby and Miles (yes, from Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles) can operate at extreme temperatures ranging from -40°C to 80°C without the need for oxygen.

Ford can probably program its robots to do a burnout. PHOTO FROM FORD

These robots have “legs” that operate the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals, and the “arms” are used to change gears and start and stop the engine. See Shelby and Miles in action here.

The biggest benefit is that these robots can be programmed to match different driving styles and do repetitive tests perfectly without needing bathroom breaks. Of course, Ford will still continue to utilize humans for testing at its other proving grounds around the world.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.