• Ford Robutt Tester

Ford's New Robot Butt Saves Your Seat 

Ford of Europe calls it the sweaty butt test.

Evan Williams By: Evan Williams January 11, 2019

Ford’s latest testing rig will have you saying domo arigato to Mr. Robutt-o. It’s a robotic posterior that the automaker uses to make sure that your sweaty backside doesn’t lead your new seats to an early death.

Ford of Europe calls it the “sweaty butt test.” Though we’re willing to bet there are internal engineering documents with a way more elaborate and technical name. Like “water-applied lower seat cushion friction apparatus.” Or something like that. The star of the sweaty butt test is the Robutt. So named because it is a robotic butt.

Sort of. This isn’t the kind of robot that’s going to walk around just being a butt. It’s a machine with a butt simulator. Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right either.

Every automaker knows that you’ll get in and out of your vehicle. A lot. At least once each for every time you drive it. That enter and exit puts a great deal of force on your seat upholstery, foam, and even the seat frame. Add a sweaty driver, either from hot weather or exercise, and things can get even rougher for that hero of the backside, your seat cushion.

The Robutt lets Ford simulate 10 years of sweaty bottoms in just three days of testing, as unpleasant as that sounds, the reality might be even worse.

A special robotic bottom, designed to simulate the backside of a large man, is heated to 36°C. It’s also soaked with 450 mm of water. Then a mechanical arm puts the butt in the seat. Rocking and twisting to simulate a real person getting in and out. And in and out. And in and out.

It sits, bounces, and twists 7,500 times. A lifetime of sweaty butts is simulated in a long weekend.

“Cars are a part of our everyday lives, and at this time of year in particular, so is exercise,” said Florian Rohwer, development engineer, Body and Chassis Labs, Ford of Europe. “The ‘Robutt’ is a great way to check our seats will look good for years to come.”

The first development project to get the autonomous butt treatment was the new Ford Fiesta. The one we’re not getting. But the automaker is rolling it out to test the pushin’ of the cushion of all Ford Europe Vehicles. We’ll assume that Canadian cars will start to get a similar treatment. But maybe with a frozen component of the test to better cope with “March in Moose Jaw” butt.

Nobody ever said engineering was glamorous.

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