In the Philippines, poor road surfaces are commonplace, often as a result of poor urban planning (and, conversely, very effective collection of kickbacks in road projects).
But Ford of Europe said that potholes and other rough road surfaces are becoming an expensive problem for motorists around the world. The company said in the United Kingdom alone, the Royal Automobile Club responded to more than 25,000 pothole-related breakdowns in 2015 – nearly a quarter more from the year before. It also said that according to the European Commission, poorly maintained roads contribute to at least one in three road crashes annually in Europe.
To look into this problem further, Ford has created a 1.9-kilometer chassis-testing road – consisting of precise replicas that simulate more than 100 hazards from 25 countries worldwide – as part of its 80-kilometer Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium. The company said this will help engineers create more robust chassis systems to ensure Ford vehicles can better withstand the world’s increasingly choppy roads.
“From a rutted traffic junction in China to a bumpy German side-street, this road is a rogues’ gallery of the most bruising surfaces that our customers might encounter,” said Eric-Jan Scharlee, Lommel Proving Ground durability technical specialist. “By incorporating these real-world challenges into our test facilities we can develop future vehicles to better cope with challenging conditions.”
Employing equipment similar to those used by seismologists studying earthquakes, the company said engineers drive through the potholes at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour, using sensors to record the loads and strains to the suspension and components. This includes surfaces as diverse as granite blocks from Belgium, cobbles from Paris and speed bumps from Brazil.
The company said the data from these tests have resulted in the debut of Continuous Control Damping with Pothole Mitigation technology in Europe on the Mondeo, Galaxy and S-Max, which adjusts the suspension if it detects that a wheel has dropped into a pothole and can help protect the suspension from damage. Also, the company’s tire pressure monitoring system alerts drivers to punctures, while the electronic stability control can help drivers maintain control of their vehicle when avoiding obstacles.