Ford says that its engineers who were sent home due to the coronavirus outbreak are continuing to develop the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV.
Certain activities are not possible, like running vehicles on robust road tests and tweaking the suspension and brakes. But with remote access, engineers working on the Mach-E’s software system and electronic architecture can continue to make progress.
According to a report in the Detroit News, team members took home prototype vehicles. Developers can do nearly everything they usually would.
Aleyna Kapur, an engineer working on communications between hardware and software, said:
If there is a different calibration we want to try, I will jump into the vehicle, the flash goes in, I will take the car around the block, come back, look at the data, and see how things reacted.
Maybe I’ll get back in the vehicle, tweak a few things, and come back to the desk. It’s right there.
Teams of engineers working at home — and therefore separate from one another — are in touch online to share data. Sometimes they take videos and photos that are shared with the group.
Ford is obviously not alone. Tesla continues to build battery factories and is using factory shutdowns to improve production processes. After a pause, Polestar began production of the Polestar 2 EV at its facility in Luqiao, China.
Before Michigan’s stay-at-home order, Ford followed rules to frequently sanitize the test vehicle’s interior. The Detroit region has seen a flood of coronavirus cases in the weeks since the first known case was reported on March 10. In less than two weeks, 35 people with the illness have died in the city. The police chief tested positive, and more than 500 police officers are in quarantine.
Some engineers admitted to Detroit News that combining work and home life can be challenging. The kids can be distracting.
Rob Iorio, Mach-E vehicle engineering manager, said:
There are dogs, kids, there are older family members — that does add some spice to the process. Everybody is just trying to adapt. Many of us have been working on this Mustang Mach-E for many years. It’s in our blood. You can’t just hit the pause button.
Some automakers are using the coronavirus as an excuse to delay the shift to electric vehicles. However, the impact on the auto industry from the pandemic will only temporarily slow down the shift to more sustainable mobility.
If anything, the new realization of nature’s power to alter our lives is now tangible. Some people previously viewed climate change as an abstract threat. It has become real, and so has our need to mitigate its potential damage collectively.
On a technical front, software plays a huge role in electric powertrains. Not even a global pandemic will stop the work to make the transition to EVs.
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