The automotive business is extremely competitive. Manufacturers are continually conducting R&D to make vehicles safer, quieter, more aerodynamic, more appealing and so on.
To help better design its vehicle interiors, Ford has developed a robot known as RUTH - short for Robotized Unit for Tactility and Haptics.
RUTH enables Ford engineers to refine various touch points around the vehicle’s interior to objectively meet a wide range of subjective customer preferences.
With RUTH, Ford has become the world’s first automaker to use a robot to scientifically test the feel and appearance of switches and surfaces.
RUTH brings a scientific, three-dimensional approach to touch.
Friction, force, roughness, softness and temperature are among the parameters measured throughout the vehicle’s interior. These measurements are then compared and correlated to consumer feedback on what is perceived as having a high-quality appearance and feel.
The output from this research is helping engineers generate measurements for the “Ford DNA” - a consistent signature look and feel - for different parts of the interior, such as the armrest or steering wheel.
Unlike some automakers that test components or materials in a lab setting, apart from the actual vehicle application, RUTH assumes the role of the driver and can feel components inside three-dimensional spaces, such as a design prototype, say Ford engineers.
RUTH mimics complex human movements, from pushing knobs to adjusting the air vents, just as the customer experiences it.
Other systems have only linear or rotary measurements, which typically fall short when it comes to replicating customer operation, they note.
Another good thing about RUTH: She doesn’t require a salary or breaks, is unable to call in sick and won’t go on strike.
Isn’t technology something?