Ford develops pot-hole mitigation technology

Ford is developing a technology to mitigate the effects of potholes on its vehicles in an effort to reduce costly repairs and accidents caused by poor road surfaces.

The RAC responded to more than 25,000 pothole-related breakdowns in the UK last year – almost a 25% increase on 2014.

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

Recognising the issue, Ford has created 1.2‑miles of gruelling test track that replicates some of the worst potholes and road hazards from around the world.

Designed to concentrate the punishment experienced by vehicles, it helps engineers create more robust chassis systems and develop new innovations to ensure Ford vehicles can better withstand the world’s challenging roads.

The road is part of 50 miles of test tracks 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 scary road hazards has taken them to the UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Switzerland, 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 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.

Ford’s obsession with making sure its cars can withstand the world’s worst roads has driven innovation.  For example, Ford is developing Continuous Control Damping with pothole mitigation technology.

The technology adjusts the suspension if it detects that a wheel has dropped into a pothole, helping 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 3.7 million miles every year. For example, the all-new Transit was driven over the course more than 5,000 times as part of a testing regime designed to simulate 10 years of driver use 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 deg C to 40 deg 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.

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Van thefts on the increase

Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) provider Tracker has assisted the Metropolitan Police in recovering a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter worth £11,000.

The van, belonging to a butcher, was stolen from outside his home in Ilford, Essex, in the early hours of the morning, but was quickly recovered by police in East London.

Adrian Davenport, police liaison manager at Tracker, said: “Eighteen months ago, there was a spike in Mercedes-Benz Sprinter thefts in the Essex and London areas.

“These vans were being stolen to dismantle and ship overseas, usually to Eastern Europe, so our customer was lucky that he had learnt from past experience and had a tracking device fitted,” said Adrian Davenport, police liaison manager at Tracker.

“An SVR device may not stop a vehicle from being stolen but it does increase the chances of police recovering and returning the vehicle to its owner.”

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7 seater available covering Bank Holiday period

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Do not check Facebook when driving!

21% Drivers Don’t Know Checking Facebook Illegal While Driving

There is a frightening level of ignorance about mobile phone law, with 21% not realising it is illegal to check Facebook and Twitter while driving, according to the RAC.

Its research also found that more than one-in-ten (12%) do not know that texting and driving is illegal.

Ignorance about texting at the wheel of a stationary car with the engine on is higher still with 61% not realising it is against the law.

The law regarding in-car mobile phone use says it is an offence for anyone to use any type of hand-held communications device when driving.

The definition of driving includes whenever the engine is switched on, even if the vehicle is stationary.

 It is therefore an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or smartphone when the vehicle is stopped at traffic lights, is stationary in a traffic jam or is parked with the engine running.

But the survey found that nearly half (47%) of motorists think it acceptable to use a mobile phone while sat in traffic lights or stuck in congestion.

Around a quarter (26%) think it safe to text and look at social media sites when stationary with the engine running.

David Bizley, technical director at RAC, said: “While the law is clear it seems that motorists regard using a mobile phone while stationary at traffic lights or when stationary in congestion as more socially acceptable and less dangerous than using their hand-held phones while on the move.

“They forget, for example, that when concentrating on their phone, a cyclist may pull up beside or just ahead of them and they may pull away, totally unaware of the cyclist’s presence.”

Seeing other motorists flouting the law

There is a big difference in what motorists see being done by others and what they are prepared to admit to doing themselves.

More than half of motorists (53%) surveyed report regularly seeing other people texting in stationary traffic during half or some of their journeys, while 29% claim to see this during most journeys.

Three-quarters (75%) of motorists report regularly observing other people talking on a hand-held phone while driving, with 44% saying they see this happening during most of their car journeys.

Motorists with less than 10 years’ experience are more likely to admit to talking on a hand-held mobile phone illegally (16%) compared to just 4% of those who have been driving for more than 25 years.

And, when it comes to drivers owning up to texting in stationary vehicles on the road, only 7% of motorists say they do, though this figure almost doubles to 15% for 17 to 24-year-olds.

Belief they won’t get caught

There seems to be a perception among many motorists – rightly or wrongly – that they won’t get caught if they use their mobile phones while driving.

More than half (51%) believe it is unlikely that they will be caught sending texts while their car is stationary.

And, four in 10 (42%) of motorists also think it is unlikely they will be caught texting while driving, with 16% believing it is ‘extremely unlikely’ they will get caught.

Bizley said: “There is a huge discrepancy between what motorists report they are seeing when they drive and what they admit to doing themselves.

“This suggests some drivers are being economical with the truth and they simply do not consider themselves as being ‘one of them’.

“Yet of those motorists who admit to having used a hand-held phone or having texted or checked out social media while driving, 90% know they are breaking the law.

Driver distraction

“The distraction caused by hand-held mobile phones ranks alongside the cost of fuel and the state of the roads as a major worry for motorists,” Bizley said.

“More than a third (34%) worry about other drivers being distracted by talking on mobile phones while at the wheel.

“And, it is the older generation who are most concerned about this with half (49%) of motorists aged 65 or over voicing discontent – a 9% increase compared to 12 months ago.”

More than a quarter of motorists (27%) admit to feeling side-tracked when they hear a mobile phone ring-tone and this rises to 40% of younger motorists aged 17 to 24.

While motorists don’t believe that technology is as big a distraction as other passengers, or changing the CD when driving, 16% of them indicate that looking at their smartphone to read something can be an irresistible distraction; and this rises to 25% among company car drivers.

Just 11% of motorists admit that texting is a key distraction while driving. However, this increases to 16% of 17 to 24-year-olds and one in five (20%) of motorists living in London.

 Bizley added: “British motorists regard themselves as law-abiding and out of 35.8 million driving licence holders in the UK, around three million (less than one in 10) drivers have points on their licence.

“However, more than one million drivers have been convicted of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving since 2003, when it was made explicitly illegal.

“This prompts the question as to whether motorists are deliberately flouting the law or whether they are just unaware of exactly what is, and what isn’t legal.”

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9 seater automatic Mercedes Vito available in September

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Vauxhall Insignia with sat nav available

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