Toyota-designed robot takes the wheel in rough-road durability tests
With the robot behind the wheel, the test cycles are now only limited by fuel capacity.0
Toyota’s vehicle development process includes a lot of hands-on engineering especially when it comes to fine-tuning ride handling, comfort, and other sensory aspects.
A test like this could be very uncomfortable for engineers and technicians performing the test drive, so the automaker looked for a better solution.
Because having a human behind the wheel wasn’t critical to this specific test, Toyota engineers opted for an automated system. And when it came to testing on prototypes of the all-new Avalon, Toyota invited a robot to take the wheel.
“When our vehicle performance development (VPD) team began looking at testing for the 2019 Avalon, they developed a system that adapted and improved existing technology to allow the car to automatedly navigate around the course,” said Avalon chief engineer Randy Stephens. “This not only saved the engineers and technicians from having to endure the grueling ride, it also provided a more accurate test cycle.”
“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.”
The VPD team developed path control software allowing the Toyota R&D robot to drive a set course with an accuracy of within two-centimeters. The entire test, which stretches thousands of kilometers, was conducted and monitored by engineers and technicians in a nearby control room without the need for humans to physically occupy the vehicle through harsh testing conditions.
With the robot behind the wheel, the test cycles are now only limited by fuel capacity.