Robots have been very helpful when it comes to testing equipment and new devices.Due to their speed and accuracy, they can press buttons thousands of times allowing us to assess durability much more accurately. However, some robots are different from the others. Ford is actually using a couple of robotic butts to test durability and comfort of its new seats.
This metal robotic butt is used to measure comfort of the seat. Image credit: Ford Europe, Youtube.
Driver’s seat is one of those things that gets used every time someone is going somewhere in the car. This means that through the years it gets used the most. People sit down, get up, move around, rub their abrasive denim pants onto delicate seat material – car seats really do go through a lot of abuse. And they have to withstand it for 10-15 years. However, automakers don’t have 10 years to test a new device and that is where the robotic butt comes in.
At first it is common for an automaker to conduct some sort of research. In this case Ford asks many participants to sit in a car and get out of it, while a special pressure-sensitive cover is placed on the seat. This gives information about how people use the seat and in which places the most pressure is placed. Then a robot does its task – it sits down and gets up from the seat 25 thousand times. Obviously, it is not some humanoid, which has human-like legs. Instead, it is a butt and torso-shaped hard structure, placed on the seat by a robotic arm. It can do it consistently without getting tired. Then experts examine the seat, looking for deformations and defects, related to poor durability. Ford says that this system can simulate 10 years of use in several days.
But this butt robot is not the only one Ford uses. There is another robotic butt, meant to assess the comfort of the seat. It is connected to the computer, to measure how far each part sinks and then experts use the information to determine how comfortable the seat is. It is a big puzzle, because engineers have to create a strong and durable seat structure to provide safety, support and durability, but it also has to be comfortable on long journeys. That involves some meticulous work with softness of the seat, various foams and the overall shape.
Ford, as any other automaker, cares about its customers. It wants its cars to be comfortable and durable – that is a question of the image. In the ideal scenario, a customer should be impressed by the seats as soon as he tries them during a test drive. That is why two robotic butts are needed.