Irish roads are ever improving, but every Irish driver will be aware of the dangers potholes on our roads can offer our everyday experience.
Despite the summer months appearing on the horizon, over the next couple of months more cold temperatures will likely lead to more cracked and potholed roads.
Across Europe, bad road surfaces contribute to more than a third of all accidents every year. In 2011, 20 million potholes were reported in Europe but only half were filled, and at an estimated cost of more than €1.2 billion.
However, new technology is on the way that could spare costly car repairs with the help of an ingenious crowd-sourced virtual pothole map, which Ford revealed recently. It has being researching this for some time and testing is due to start later this year. The map would show drivers, in real-time, on in-car displays, where potholes are, how bad they are and suggest alternative routes.
“A virtual pothole map could highlight a new pothole the minute it appears and almost immediately warn other drivers that there is a hazard ahead,” said Uwe Hoffmann, research engineer, Advanced Chassis Control Technologies, Ford of Europe. “Our cars already feature sensors that detect potholes and now we are looking at taking this to the next level.”
Cold, ice, and snow all cause roads to freeze, thaw, and ultimately break apart, a situation compounded by heavy spring rain that fills the holes. Ford cars including Galaxy, Mondeo, and S-MAX, already use on-board sensors for ‘continuously controlled damping’ with ‘pothole mitigation’ that detects potholes using sensors and adjusts the suspension to help reduce any potential damage.
Engineers are now researching the possibility of using cameras and embedded modems at a Ford research and innovation centre in Germany. Together, these technologies would gather detailed information on the potholes and beam it to the cloud, where it can be made available to other drivers in real time.
Further research is also exploring the use of an active suspension system designed to massively reduce the severity of bumps and rough road surfaces. Ford already tests new cars on a nightmare 1.9-kilometre (1.2-mile ) road at Lommel Proving Ground, Belgium, using replicas of some of the world’s worst potholes.