Ford’s Nightmare Road: Inspired by World’s Worst Potholes
Ian Wright posted on February 19, 2016 |
(Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)
(Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

It is a dark and stormy night…

You’re heading home from a long day at work, squinting through the windshield at a rough road obscured by lashing rain. Taking the backroads seemed like a good alternative to the typically congested highway…at first.

Suddenly, there’s a sickening lurch and a heavy thud as your right wheel hits a pothole masquerading as an innocent puddle.

The scraping sound that follows is immediately accompanied by the question everyone hates to ask: How much is this going to cost me?

The Cost of Crumbling Infrastructure

According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), pothole damage has cost US drivers roughly $3 billion per year over the last five years at an average of $300 per repair.

More and more roads are starting to look like this one. (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)
More and more roads are starting to look like this one. (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

“In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair. “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage.”

Although Congress increased transportation funding in 2015 to help pay for road repair, as much as $170 billion is needed to fix America’s roads and bridges. Unless we come up with a better a way to repair infrastructure, most of us are going to encounter at least one pothole sooner or later.

That’s why Ford Motor Company created the world’s worst road.

Enter the Nightmare Road…If You Dare

(Video courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

Ford’s nightmare road is a 1.2-mile section of a 50-mile test track incorporating replicas of some of the worst potholes and road hazards from around the world. It features European- as well as US-style potholes and simulates more than 100 hazards from 25 countries.

Employing similar equipment to what seismologists use to study earthquakes, engineers drive through the potholes and other hazards at speeds of up to 46 mph (74 kph). They use sensors to record the loads and strains on the vehicle’s suspension and other components.

(Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)
(Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

“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 the Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium.

The road was created to help Ford engineers design more robust chassis systems to help vehicles better withstand the world’s increasingly rough roads. It includes surfaces as diverse as granite blocks from Belgium, cobbles from Paris and speed bumps from Brazil.

(Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)
(Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

The search for scary roads has taken Ford engineers to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK as well as Asia, Australia and North and South America.

“By incorporating these real-world challenges into our test facilities we can develop future vehicles to better cope with challenging conditions,” Scharlee added.

The road has already yielded valuable insights in the form of Ford’s Continuous Control Damping with Pothole Mitigation technology. This adjusts the vehicle’s suspension if it detects that a wheel has dropped into a pothole, which helps protect the suspension from damage.

For more information, check out this Ford infographic:

(Infographic courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)
(Infographic courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

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