90 years ago today, General Motors opened the doors to its Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, MI. The facility has served as GM’s main testing area ever since and there’s a good chance the GM product that may be sitting in your garage or driveway underwent durability and safety testing there.
GM has developed many innovations and automotive testing techniques at Milford which are now used industry-wide. In 1960, engineers at Milford erected one of the first modern crash barriers and in 1980, they invented what we know today as the standardized crash test dummy.
Milford’s main goal is serving as a test bed for GM’s notoriously rigorous durability tests. In just 18 months, engineers are able to replicate the kind of wear and tear a car would undergo in its entire lifetime, ensuring it will hold up over time once it reaches customer hands.
“In 90 years, what hasn’t changed is that durability testing is physical,” said GM’s director of Global Proving Ground Operations, Test Labs and Vehicle Material Engineering, Stephen Jenkins. “We can mathematically calculate how well a part should hold up under certain conditions, but it isn’t until we get a driver in the product and test over and over again that we can be sure.”
Some of these extreme tests include the ‘Belgian Block Loop’ (an extremely rough brick road which tests the strength of suspension and chassis components), chatter bumps (similar to those on the side of the highway), speed bumps and more. There is also a ‘Humidity Chamber’, which tests a cars weather seals and speeds up the corrosion process.
“We are always pushing ourselves to test even the smallest part of a vehicle to ensure that the entire product from the engine down to the screws and bolts are tough enough to handle the driving our customers need,” Jenkins said.