Ford Motor Company has created a diabolical 1.9-kilometre (1.2‑mile) road that consists of precise replicas of some of the worst potholes and road hazards from around the world 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.

Image courtesy of Ibtimes.

Last year in the U.K. alone, the Royal Automobile Club responded to more than 25,000 pothole-related breakdowns – a nearly 25 per cent increase just since 2014.* Poor condition and lack of maintenance of European roads are said to contribute to at least one third of all accidents every year.

Ford Everest, one of the Ford products tackling all manners of terrains with aplomb.

The road is part of 80 kilometres (50 miles) of test tracks at Ford’s test facility in Lommel, Belgium. It incorporates potholes from Europe and the U.S., and simulates more than 100 hazards from 25 countries worldwide. In the past three years alone, Ford engineers’ search for scary road hazards
has taken them to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K., as well as Asia, Australia, North America, and South America.

“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, durability technical specialist, at Ford’s Lommel Proving Ground, in Belgium. “By incorporating these real-world challenges into our test facilities we can develop future vehicles to better cope with challenging conditions.”

Engineers are always investigating potential new additions for inclusion at the facility. Employing similar equipment to that used by seismologists studying earthquakes, the engineers drive through the potholes at speeds of up to 70 km/h (46 mph), 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’s obsession with making sure its cars can withstand the world’s worst roads has led to innovation. For example, Ford is debuting Continuous Control Damping with Pothole Mitigation technology in Europe on 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. Ford’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System alerts drivers to punctures, and Electronic Stability Control can help drivers maintain control of their vehicle when avoiding obstacles.

All Ford vehicles for Europe are tested at Lommel, where Ford engineers and test drivers cover more than 6 million kilometres (3.7 million miles) every year. For example, test drivers there drove the all-new Transit over the course more than 5,000 times as part of a testing regime designed to simulate ten years’ punishment in just six months. Test facilities also include a high-speed circuit, salt- and mud-baths and corrosion testing in high-humidity chambers. Prototype vehicles also are driven worldwide in temperatures ranging from -40 C to 40 C.

“Analysing data inputs during vehicle testing has enabled Ford to develop a range of advanced driver aids and design modifications to help continually improve the safety and robustness of our vehicles,” Scharlee said.

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Mich. With about 199,000 employees and 67 plants worldwide, the company’s core business includes designing, manufacturing, marketing financing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electrified vehicles, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles. At the same time, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and data and analytics. For more information
regarding Ford, its products worldwide or Ford Motor Credit Company, visit​​
Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 53,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and approximately 68,000 people when joint ventures and unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 24 manufacturing facilities (16 wholly owned or consolidated joint venture facilities and 8 unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.
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