Potholes: Ford develops an early warning system

Europe-wide, potholes in the roads cause damages running into billions. Ford now plans to develop an early warning system.

The Ford Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen experiments with on-board cameras and modems that collect detailed information on potholes during the ride. Picture: obs/Ford-Werke GmbH

A short moment of inattentiveness and the damage is done – a loud crack, a violent impact and the car owner loses several hundreds of Euros. Potholes are an increasingly common problem. Not only in the south of Europe but also in Germany damages of the street surfaces are increasing. Not only the damages caused by frost or abrasion are dangerous for vehicles. Also building defects can lead to hairy situations. In Bavaria, a motorcyclist died because du to high heat, the roadbed shifted against each other and broke up.

Potholes in the cloud

Ford started research in it’s “Ford Research and Innovation Centre” with the goal to develop a warning system that gives real-time alert and maps road damages digitally. The data shall be collected by on-board cameras, which are installed in almost all modern cars for the control of the assistance systems. When the camera detects a pothole or another greater damage to the road, the alert is uploaded automatically in an online database. From this cloud data, virtual maps with potholes can be transferred in real time on the information displays of other cars. In case of greater road damages, the system also calculates an alternative route. Car owners as well as insurers would benefit from this technology. In the course of this year, Ford plans the first practical tests. The car manufacturer indicates that insurers list 500 Euros per pothole damage.

Some of Ford’s car models are already equipped with the necessary recording, transmission and receiver technology and the car manufacturer wants to start as soon as possible the field trial. His plans are not only to map potholes and issue a warning. He also wants to condition modern adaptive landing gears to react with an optimal shock absorber setting in case of potholes in order to minimize damages. For the research work, Ford also uses the data of a 1.9 km test track on the Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium where some of the worst pothole tracks in the world are reproduced.

Read more: Road heating system: getting through winter safely.

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