Potholes are the driver’s bane – at best uncomfortable, at worst a recipe for a broken wheel or axle. In some parts of the country, roads have more potholes than smooth surface, as the local council either forgets their existence or simply flings a shovelful of gravel into the hole every couple of years.
And it’s not just a uniquely Irish problem. Bad road surfaces contribute to more than a third of all accidents every year across Europe, and in Britain local authorities receive a pothole damage-related claim every 17 minutes, with an average claim of €508.
Ford, however, may have a solution. Ford of Europe is researching the possibility of a crowd-sourced virtual pothole map, which would show real-time information using the in-car display on the location and severity of potholes. Depending on how bad the road surface is, the system could suggest alternative routes. Several Ford models, including the Galaxy, Mondeo and S-MAX, already contain ‘Pothole Mitigation’ systems, which use sensors to detect potholes and can adjust the suspension to help reduce any damage.
“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.”
That next level would involve the use of cameras and embedded modems in cars to detect the presence of potholes and beam this information to the cloud, to be pulled out of the ether by other drivers in real-time.
There may be hope for your spine (and suspension) yet.