Chrysler Corp.'s driverless durability road is a 1.3-mile track that has a rough stone lane and a smooth asphalt-covered lane. The track's conditions are so extreme that an estimated 2,500 miles of travel equal the effect of 100,000 miles in normal conditions. Robots can drive vehicles on the track nonstop for eight hours or more, saving wear and tear on human test drivers. Vehicles run up to 25 mph on the stone lane and up to 50 mph on the smooth lane. So far, only production vehicles have been tested on the road, but Chrysler plans to start running vehicles being developed for the 2000-2002 model years. The goal: Slash vehicle development time below the 28 months it now takes from design approval.
How it works
A command is sent from the control tower (1). Relay towers (2) send the command to the vehicle (3). The onboard computer (4) receives the command and instructs the robot (5) in the front seat to steer, shift, brake and accelerate. A guide wire (6) in the road guides the vehicle by sending a signal to two sensors on the vehicle. To help monitor the vehicle's location, a rear antenna (7) emits power bursts, then a transponder in the track sends a signal to the vehicle control computer, which sends the vehicle's location to the control tower.