Toyota has revealed it’s taken humans out from behind the wheel for rough-road durability testing, replacing them with a robot.

TOYOTA HAS REVEALED its research centre in the US has taken humans out of the driver’s seat and installed a robot to handle the punishing conditions of rough road durability testing.

Toyota said, “Rough road durability testing for Toyota’s North American vehicles is conducted on a course in Michigan that the company specifically engineered with potholes, dips and other defects precisely placed along the track surface. These conditions inflict all the road-induced punishment that the average vehicle encounters during its lifetime into a single, bone-jarring evaluation”.


Toyota Engineers and Technicians prepare an Avalon prototype for autonomous durability testing in Michigan.

In the old days, engineers used to drive the car across the course managing just 30min before needing to be subbed out by another engineer. Now, according to Toyota, its robot can keep going until the fuel runs out. The idea of this sort of durability test isn’t to measure ride and handling, rather simply to punish the vehicle and its components.

Because the test didn’t require a human behind the wheel, Toyota said it used testing on the all-new Avalon as its opportunity to place a robot behind the wheel. “Spoiler alert: using the robot resulted in greater overall safety, efficiency and reduced test times,” Toyota said in a statement.

Don’t misunderstand this, while Toyota enabled the mule to be self-driving, the vehicle doesn’t utilize any of the autonomous vehicle technology the company is working on. Toyota was light on details, but said that connecting components that could remotely start, shift, steer and stop the Toyota flagship vehicle during testing was the easy part compared with getting the vehicle to actually navigate around the test track.

“Once we had the physical components in place, we started working on the GPS-guided path control,” explained Don Federico, group manager for Toyota’s VPD team. “Traditional in-car global positioning systems are accurate to about four-meters. Our system and control accuracy needed to be far greater to keep the test car on the narrow track at high speeds and to get accurate test results, especially while getting bounced around by potholes.”

In the control room, a member of the Toyota team monitors a 2019 Toyota Avalon prototype as it conducts autonomous durability testing in Michigan.

The test is now monitored/controlled by engineers in a remote control room, meaning humans are now saved the bone-jarring job. Toyota said it will use the same system for all durability testing on new models across its R&D sites around the world.


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