A GLOBAL SCOURGE: Potholes are a global problem, costing drivers thousands each year in expensive and avoidable vehicle repairs. Image: Supplied
• Potholes are costly for drivers
• 80mk test track, 100 extreme surfaces
• New Pothole Mitigation technology
Lommel, Belgium – Potholes and other rough road surfaces are a pricey problem for motorists around the world.
In 2015, the UK Royal Automobile Club responded to more than 25 000 pothole-related breakdowns – a nearly 25% increase since 2014. Poor condition and lack of maintenance are said to contribute to at least one third of all crashes every year in Europe.
Recognising the issue, Ford has created a diabolical 1.9km road that consists of precise replicas of some of the worst potholes and road hazards from around the world.
What’s the point of this suspension-ruining road?
According to Ford: "To help engineers create more robust chassis systems and develop new innovations to ensure Ford vehicles can better withstand the world’s increasingly choppy roads."
The road is part of test tracks spanning 80km at Ford’s test facility in Lommel, Belgium. It incorporates potholes from Europe and the US, and simulates more than 100 hazards from 25 countries worldwide.
In the past three years, Ford engineers’ search for horrible roads has taken them to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Asia, Australia, North and South America.
Eric-Jan Scharlee, durability technical specialist at Ford’s Lommel Proving Ground, said: “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. By incorporating these real-world challenges into our test facilities we can develop future vehicles to better cope with challenging conditions.”
How to make the world's worst road
Engineers are always investigating potential new additions for inclusion at the facility. Employing similar equipment to that used by seismologists studying earthquakes, Ford engineers drive through the potholes at speeds of up to 70km/h, 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.
Ford is debuting Continuous Control Damping with Pothole Mitigation technology in Europe fitted to its Mondeo, Galaxy and S-MAX. The technology adjusts the suspension if it detects that a wheel has dropped into a pothole, and can help protect the suspension from damage.
All Ford vehicles for Europe are tested at Lommel, where Ford engineers and test drivers cover more than six-million kilometres every year.