Pothole-detection technology is an option with Ford of Europe’s all-new Focus.
The automaker says U.K. drivers are facing a pothole crisis, made worse this year in some areas by the “Beast from the East” Arctic air mass bringing icy conditions that helped road surfaces crumble.
A pothole was repaired every 21 seconds on average in England and Wales during the past year, but hitting one results in harsh impacts that can cause damage and hefty repair bills.
The all-new Focus’s pothole-detection system senses when a wheel is falling into a pothole and adjusts the suspension, so the wheel doesn’t fall as far into it.
Because the tire and wheel don’t drop as far, they don’t strike the opposite side of the pothole as harshly. The rear suspension can respond even faster than the front, with a signal from the front wheel providing a warning to the rear wheel before it reaches the pothole.
Vehicle-dynamics supervisor Guy Mathot says this all happens in a split second.
“Potholes are a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon, but with our advanced suspension technology for the all-new Focus, we’ve been able to reduce their impact,” he says in a news release.
The pothole-detection system is a feature of the Focus’s optional continuously controlled damping technology that every two milliseconds monitors suspension, body, steering and braking inputs, and adjusts the vehicle’s suspension responses.
Ford develops suspension systems using a specially created road at the company’s test facility in Belgium. It includes precise replicas of some of the worst potholes and road hazards from around the world.
Engineers further refine the systems with hundreds of hours of testing on a diverse range of European public roads, monitoring loads and strains with equipment similar to that used by seismologists to study earthquakes.
“Our engineers are always searching for the roughest roads to really test our suspensions to the limit, but more and more we’re noticing that the rough roads are finding us,” Mathot notes.