Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

In dozens of research labs around the world, engineers and roboticists are working to build a complete, ultra-detailed humanoid robot. But they’re not all building every part themselves. Some researchers are working to develop robot muscles, capable of lifting. Others aim to create robot skin, capable of sensing. Over at car manufacturer Ford, they’re working on what must surely be one of the least popular robot body parts: a robotic posterior. You know, for sitting.

As it turns out, there’s a good reason (albeit a slightly gross one) why Ford has developed its proprietary “Robutt.” The robot badonkadonk is designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for what is likely to add up to thousands of hours over the course of a person’s car ownership. That’s not just about testing the weight of a person sitting on the seat, but also the way that they are likely to move around and squirm — plus the effects of sweat for those occasions when showering at the gym is just too much hassle. It was created initially for the Ford Fiesta series, but it is now being rolled out for testing all Ford models across Europe.

“Cars are a part of our everyday lives, and at this time of year in particular, so is exercise,” development engineer Florian Rohwer wrote on the Ford blog, referencing people’s tendency to join a gym as a New Year’s resolution. “The ‘Robutt’ is a great way to check our seats will look good for years to come.”

For its sweat test, the Robutt can simulate what Ford believes is an entire decade’s worth of use in just three days. During those intensive days, the Robutt — which is modeled on the dimensions of a large man — bounces and twists some 7,500 times. During the test, it is heated to a temperature of 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees Fahrenheit), and soaked with 450 milliliters of water: the equivalent of just under two cups.

If Ford’s seats can survive that kind of sweaty assault, the company (probably rightly) assumes that there’s not too much it shouldn’t be able to withstand in the real world.

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