The International Space Station May Transform Your Vehicle into a Mobile Messenger, if Ford Technologists Have Their Way

Article created for My Ford Magazine: By Patrick Dunn

Ford is analyzing NASA’s Robonaut 2.

Bringing Space Communications to Ford

A new partnership with Russia’s St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University has Ford studying robot communication systems on the International Space Station to improve vehicle communication on Earth. Ford technical leader Oleg Gusikhin says the main roadblock to transforming cars into mobile messengers (like robots) is that no network offers 100% coverage nationwide. “The problem has been around in space communication for quite some time,” Gusikhin says. “[We’re trying to] leverage the lessons learned and the technology they already have to the vehicle.”

Associate Professor Vladimir Mulukha, Ph.D., Telematics Department of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, shakes hands with the mobile humanoid “Justin.”

One idea involves vehicles relaying an automatic signal after an accident occurs. “If a cellular network is unavailable, you could send a message to another vehicle passing by and then it can send it to the cell network,” Gusikhin says. These next-level systems could also allow traffic lights to anticipate and respond to oncoming traffic—and they might not be far off. Says Gusikhin, “I think it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to be within five years.”

How Ford Vehicles Could Soon Speak Robot

1. The communication system consists of an Earth control center, a near-Earth satellite and a space-stationed robot group.

2. The Earth control center broadcasts a task to the near-Earth satellite through a dedicated channel.

3. At a specified time, the near-Earth satellite passes the task to a group of robots for completion.

4. To execute the task, the synchronized group of robots exchange information with each other in real time.

5. The robot group relays the results of the task back home to the Earth control center for data analysis.

Students from the Telematics Department of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University and Professor Mikhail Kurochkin analyze model space rover movements.