Ford says it has developed new, first-of-its-kind electronic high-visibility panels, which do not rely on other light sources to be clearly visible in the dark.
The red stripes, available on Transit and Transit Custom models, are illuminated by electricity passing through a thin layer of phosphorus gas – technology already used in aeroplane cockpits and on screens for medical and military equipment. When installed, these are activated by a switch behind the driver’s seat.
Many roadside workers, such as those repairing cars, fixing potholes, or maintaining gas and water supplies, operate in high-risk environments and standard reflective panels are reliant on the headlights of other vehicles for illumination. As a result, these panels can be less effective when approached from around a bend – especially on long, dark winter nights.
Simon Robinson, chief programme engineer with Ford of Europe's special vehicle engineering, says roadside working is a necessary and sometimes dangerous part of the job for many customers.
“We want to ensure that what is often essential work can be carried out as safely and effectively as possible. Creating panels that can be illuminated without having to rely on other sources of light was literally a ‘light bulb’ moment.”
Ford trialled its panels in collaboration with an English water group, enabling engineers to monitor their effectiveness in real-world scenarios and to gauge the benefits of panels that light up - even when other drivers neglect to activate their headlights. The trial was so successful that trial company Northumbrian Water Group, and another major water company, became the first commercial users.