Ford’s pothole test track is world’s worst road

18 February 2016
By Jack Loughran
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Potholes can cause tyre, wheel and suspension damage that can cost drivers up to £300 a time

Potholes can cause tyre, wheel and suspension damage that can cost drivers up to £300 a time

A pothole-filled test track that stretches for 1.2 miles has been developed by Ford in order to test its vehicles in real road conditions.

The test track replicates some of the worst potholes and road hazards from around the world and is designed to concentrate the punishment experienced by vehicles on real roads to help engineers create more robust chassis systems.

Last year, the RAC responded to more than 25,000 pothole-related breakdowns in the UK, which is almost a 25 per cent increase from 2014.

Potholes can cause tyre, wheel and suspension damage that can cost drivers up to £300 a time. In addition, the poor condition and lack of maintenance of European roads is said to contribute to at least one third of all accidents every year.

The pothole-filled road is part of 50 miles of test tracks that Ford uses at its facility in Lommel, Belgium.

The road emulates potholes found in Europe and the US and simulates more than 100 hazards from 25 countries worldwide.

“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, Ford’s durability technical specialist.

“By incorporating these real-world hazards into our test facilities we can develop vehicles equipped to deal with these challenging conditions.”

Engineers drive through the potholes and over surfaces as diverse as granite blocks from Belgium and cobbles from Paris, at speeds of almost 50mph. Sensors, similar to those used by seismologists studying earthquakes, record the loads and strain on the suspension system.

The carmaker is currently developing various pothole mitigation technologies to prevent damage to their vehicles. The technology adjusts the suspension if it detects that a wheel has dropped into a pothole, helping protect the suspension from damage.

The University of Leeds is currently piloting a £4.2m project that uses street robots to automatically find and fix pot holes on city roads.

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