A robot known as RUTH (Robotized Unit for Tactility and Haptics) is busy working at Ford's European Advance Research centre in Aachen, Germany. RUTH tests the feel and appearance of switches and surfaces in Ford's cars and is the only robot in the manufacturing industry to do this.
The information gained allows the engineers to refine touch points in the car by using high quality materials. human touch is hard to measure and designers have usually relied on customer feedback to improve the interiors.
Most of the current Ford models as well as the future models will use RUTH, using the robot brings a scientific approach to touch. The interior is measured for friction, roughness, softness and temperature and the results compared with the customer feedback on what they think is quality.
Assuming the roll of the driver, RUTH feels components within the design prototype, mimicking a drivers behavior by pushing buttons, twisting knobs and adjusting air vents.
RUTH measures the resistance of pushing buttons and turning knobs, making sure they don't feel too loose or tight. It also compares different buttons and knobs to one another making sure they all feel the same.
It decides on the appropriate material and texture used for surfaces like the dashboard, making sure they are within limits of consumers expectations.
Measuring temperatures of surfaces to make sure they match expectations, metal coloured materials are expected to feel cooler. It also measures gaps in joins making sure they are all the same and reduce the size of the gap.
“All these little measurements add up to a much greater sense of quality from the moment you sit down inside a Ford. We’re leading the way in measuring touch so that high quality interiors can be delivered in affordable cars, not just expensive luxury models,” said Mark Spingler, Ford vehicle interior technologies engineer. “We’re able to convey in numbers precisely how something needs to feel and build exactly to those specifications – guesswork's replaced by science.”