- A Ford Transit van slams its way over concrete obstacles in a test of durability here at the automaker’s proving grounds some 40 miles north of Detroit. The continuous on-road torture is punishing and could wreak havoc on both chassis-components and a driver’s spine, but this test driver doesn’t mind.
That’s because the driver is a robot — a robotic autonomous device — and it has not been programmed to complain.
Robots have helped assemble cars since 1961, when, according to the International Federation of Robotics, a Unimate robot on a General Motors assembly line began installing door handles. Robots have since taken over many tedious and hazardous tasks, but it’s only in recent years that they have been assigned to test-track duty.