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Robots, Virtual and Physical Testing Helped Ford Make Next-Gen Ranger and Everest A 5-Star Choice

At Ford’s Proving Ground in Australia, Ray, Rosie and Roberto are integral members of Ford’s safety team, helping to develop the very latest in crash protection features and advanced driver assist systems that enable owners to drive with more confidence on the road.

Deployed to work on Next-Generation Ranger and Everest, they’re placed in harm’s way every single day, can work 24/7 if required, and only take short breaks to recharge. They don’t even need a lunch break.

This cutting-edge robotic trio are tasked with helping Ford test driver assist systems, like Enhanced Pre-Collision Assist1 with Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)1, Lane-Keeping System with road edge detection1, Evasive Steer Assist1, Reverse Brake Assist1 and more.

Each robot plays a crucial part in driver assist technology testing; Rosie is a Guided Soft Target (GST) vehicle, Ray is a Vulnerable Road User (VRU), and Roberto is an in-car driving robot. The robots ensure Next-Gen Ranger and Everest’s advanced driver assist Systems (ADAS)1 can handle a multitude of scenarios involving other road users, including vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.

“Having our three robots means we can now run the full gamut of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)1 scenarios, everything from nose-to-tail, offset, intersections, pedestrians, cyclists and more, in less time,” said Chet Yakupitiyage, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) attribute engineer. “We can also run more tests on any given day or night and with more real-world accuracy than ever before.”

Ford ADAS engineers used to rely on towed soft targets to test and tune systems like Enhanced Pre-Collision Assist1 with Enhanced Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)1 but driver error and even weather conditions could cause inconsistencies in tests and stretch out testing programmes. Ford’s three robots ensure a broader range of DAT tests can be replicated with centimetre precision at day or night.

Rosie and Ray robots have the ability to be precisely synchronised with a test vehicle, whether it’s being operated by a robot driver (Roberto) or a human, allowing for complex ADAS1 scenarios to be created.

When fitted with a full-sized soft target, Rosie (the GST robot) carries the same radar signature as a real car. This allows the ADAS to perform a variety of real-world tests to ensure systems like Enhanced Pre-Collision Assist1 with Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)1 work correctly.

To ensure accurate coordination with Rosie and Ray, Ford’s in-car driving robot Roberto, equipped with sophisticated motion control technologies, is fitted to the test vehicle to control the steering, brakes, and accelerator. For additional safety on-site, an engineer remains in the driver’s seat to take control of the test vehicle if needed, while another engineer keeps a watchful eye on either Ray or Rosie and can take manual control if required.

Similarly, Ray, the Vulnerable Road User with Launch Pad, allows the team to test for a variety of pedestrian, children and cyclist scenarios at both day and night.

“With Ray we can simulate a child popping out from in front of a parked car, a pedestrian stepping out in front of a vehicle at night, or a cyclist riding across the road in front of the vehicle,” said Yakupitiyage.

“Our robots are the same as those used by my colleagues in other markets, which means we can share data, scenarios and perform tests in Australia to support teams in Europe and America to ensure our driver assist technologies meet Ford’s own stringent test criteria but also global NCAP protocols.

“Ray, Rosie and Roberto not only ensure more accurate and consistent results when testing these complex advanced driver assist systems1 but they also allow us to get much closer to real-world scenarios than ever before, and that should give buyers confidence that the advanced driver assist systems1 on Next-Gen Ranger and Everest have been designed to handle almost anything they’ll encounter on the road,” said Yakupitiyage.

Total commitment to safety

From physical tests at Ford crash labs around the globe, to undergoing thousands of hours of virtual crash testing, and having their driver assist systems tested by robots, Ford’s passive safety and driver assist technology teams worked tirelessly to develop the most advanced ever Next-Gen Ford Ranger and Everest.

At the core of the Next-Gen Ranger and Everest is an immensely strong body that uses high-strength materials to create a ‘safety cell’ to protect occupants, said Franco Moras, vehicle safety manager, Ford Australia. The placement of high-strength steels in the A-pillar, B-pillar, and C-pillar, as well as door sills, are to ensure that crash loads are directed away from occupants.

To achieve high levels of safety and meet Ford’s demanding in-house requirements, Ford engineers used both analytical virtual testing and physical testing.

More than 150 computer-aided engineering (CAE) Next-Gen Everest and Ranger models were built and analysed, each looking at crash scenarios as diverse as frontal offset, rear impact, and side impacts. Also, dozens of occupant impact scenarios were carried out to ensure the protection of a wide range of occupant statures (adults and children), as well as low-speed crashes, the kind you might experience in a car park, to determine the repairability of minor components.

“Before we had built a single physical prototype, we tested Next-Gen Ranger and Everest to destruction, virtually. Doing this allowed us to make fast adjustments and improvements to vehicle architecture which led to the development of a much safer vehicle,” said Moras.

Out in the real world, both Next-Gen vehicles underwent dozens of real-world crash tests, ranging from shopping trolley impacts to high-speed simulated dummy kangaroo and car-to-car impacts. In all, Ford engineers conducted more than 100 full vehicle crash tests, combined with hundreds of physical sled tests that simulate a full vehicle with occupants. This was supported by hundreds of sub-system and component safety-related tests.

“We’ve packed some of the newest driver assist features into a reinforced occupant cell, for the safety of the driver and their passengers,” said Moras.

‘Help me drive’ features

“Perhaps one of the most welcomed new features on the Next-Gen Ford Ranger and Everest for customers who tow is the enhanced blind spot information system (BLIS)1 2, which now includes trailer coverage3,” said Steffen Herrmann, ADAS supervisor, Ford Australia.

BLIS1 2 not only provides coverage for the Ranger and Everest but also for a conventional trailer measuring up to 2.4 metres wide and up to 10 metres long.

Next-Gen Ranger and Everest’s Enhanced Pre-Collision Assist1 has been enhanced to better detect both pedestrians and cyclists and offers emergency braking support at intersections in some instances thanks to a new, wider-view camera.

“These advanced driver assist systems should be seen as a, ‘helps me drive’ feature for customers,” said Herrmann. “There’s a real customer benefit and we’re proud of the enhancements.”

Five-star performance

The Next-Gen Ford Ranger and Everest have become the automaker’s latest models to be awarded a five-star rating from ANCAP in Australia and New Zealand4, continuing the five-star rating performance of the previous-generation Ranger and Everest.

The five-star ANCAP safety rating applies to all Ranger and Everest variants, excluding Ranger Raptor.

Both the Next-Gen Ford Ranger and Everest achieved strong scores in adult occupant protection for frontal offset (MPDB), side impact and far-side impact tests. And both vehicles were awarded maximum (‘good’) scores for the level of child occupant protection in frontal offset and side impact collisions.

ANCAP Chief Executive Officer, Carla Hoorweg said, “a five-star safety rating isn’t an easy achievement, yet it is particularly important when considering the very broad range of uses for the Ranger and Everest”.

Everest and Ranger’s advanced driver assistance systems, including Enhanced Pre-Collision Assist1 with Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)1, lane keeping system with the ability to detect unmarked road edges1 5 , all scored highly in ANCAP tests.

“This is good news for fleets, families and tradies, as well as recreational consumers – everyone who uses these models for work and play,” said Hoorweg.

ANCAP’s current testing protocols are the strictest in the organisation’s history, making it harder to achieve a five-star rating and now include the testing of AEB performance at junctions between vehicles and passengers. Ranger and Everest’s new forward-facing wide-view camera were a key factor in helping the vehicles score highly in ANCAP’s active safety testing.

“Achieving a five-star ANCAP safety rating on Next-Gen Ranger and Everest is great news. We know how important safety is to vehicle buyers, and we want customers to have confidence that their Ranger or Everest is watching out for them,” said Andrew Birkic, President and CEO, Ford Australia and New Zealand.

To fulfill ANCAP requirements, Rangers and Everests manufactured before 20 August 2022 will require a minor Lane-Keeping System (LKS) software configuration update, which will be completed by dealers at the complimentary peace of mind service.

“As part of the development of Next-Gen Ranger and Everest, we carried out extensive crash testing in Australia, North America and Europe, covering regulatory, public domain requirements (such as NCAPs), as well as stringent corporate requirements. This testing often goes above government mandated requirements to ensure Ranger and Everest’s safety is robust,” added Ian Foston, chief platform engineer, Ford Ranger and Everest.

“All of our safety teams, plus of course Ray, Rosie and Roberto, worked tirelessly to ensure driver assist features were cutting edge and up to the standard expected of a modern vehicle buyer,” concluded Foston.

Disclaimers

1 Driver-assist features are supplemental and do not replace the driver’s attention, judgment and need to control the vehicle. May not operate at certain speeds, or in certain driving, road or weather conditions. See Owner’s Manual for details and limitations

2 Not available on Ranger Chassis Cab Models.

3 Trailer Coverage system supports conventional trailer dimensions: up to 2.4m wide (measured at trailer front) and up to 10m long from the rear of your vehicle. Drivers will need to create a profile of their trailers in SYNC to support this system. Trailer Coverage only works with a factory fit or Genuine Ford Accessory Tow Bar. When using the Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, drivers must set the gain on the Brake Controller unit. Integrated Trailer Brake Controller is standard on Wildtrak and Raptor models. Available as part of an optional pack at additional cost on Ranger XL, XLS, XLT Pick-Up and Sport Models & Everest Ambiente, Trend, Sport & Platinum models.

4 The five-star ANCAP safety rating applies to all Everest variants, and all pickup and cab-chassis XL, XLS, XLT, Sport and Wildtrak Ranger variants in Australia and New Zealand. The five-star ANCAP safety rating applies to all Everest variants, and all pickup and cab-chassis XL, XLS, XLT, Sport and Wildtrak Ranger variants in Australia and New Zealand. Vehicles manufactured before 20 August 2022 will require a minor Lane-Keeping System (LKS) software configuration update, which will be completed by dealers at the complimentary peace of mind service. Raptor variants of the Ranger are currently unrated.

5 Designed for use on rural roads at speeds of 65 – 110km/h