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Ford's Extreme Pothole Proving Grounds

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On: Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 4:26PM | By: Chris Salamone

Ford's Extreme Pothole Proving Grounds

After a Viking-worthy winter and large spending cuts in both Europe and the United States, potholes are likely to be unfortunately common this spring and summer. But Ford drivers can relax, knowing their tried and true vehicles are tested for these exact conditions at the Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium and the Michigan Proving Ground in the US. Both test tracks feature real-world simulations and data acquisition supported by the best gearheads in the business.

Ford’s press release from March 30th indicated that several types of road conditions are simulated including moderately rough roads, such as those in Europe and North America, and severely rough roads, like those in emerging markets, taking into account that weather conditions can make these roads even worse. Further, both the Lommel and Michigan Proving Grounds include replicated roads from across the globe. Thus vehicles tested at these facilities might face something like the shambolic Lower Dunton Road in Essex, UK in preparation for real-world obstacles.

Eric-Jan Scharlee, technical specialist for Durability Testing, claims that Lommel “has some of the worst potholes in Europe on our own test track. If our cars can pass these tests then they can cope with almost anything they encounter on public roads. You name the road surface, we have it at our proving ground.” In true Detroit fashion and not to be outdone, Dan Coleman, manager of Global Durability Process, says the standard is repeated in Michigan. “We go over gravel. We go over cobblestone. We go full-throttle. We shake things up.” In summation, if Ford blasted the famous classical masterpiece 'Ride of the Valkyries' on arena speakers during testing, the proving grounds might actually be a marketable and commercializable event. Cars which survive the full pothole test could do a victory lap to 'Carmina Burana'… oh yes.

Ford creates some of these tests by surveying actual drivers in every vehicle segment, and then by developing a statistical profile of the driver, the type of roads commonly used, and driving habits. After putting it all together Ford then applies the data to a durability test cycle at each respective proving ground. Over time Ford can use this data to predict how much load and force is likely to be put on each vehicle through its lifetime and to create specific tests which evaluate how Ford vehicles withstand the surveyed challenges.

The proving grounds go far beyond real-world simulations, though. Chassis and suspensions are put through a two-phase rigorous process which puts extreme demands on the suspension and major components, and then runs high speed and rural road riving courses. Taking everything into consideration, Ford drivers should know their cars are ready for the upcoming pothole season.

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Michigander | 9:59AM (Fri, Apr 1, 2011)

Looking at the road conditions on the test course makes me laugh. That is exactly how Michigan roads look!! I am convinced they are the worst roads in the country.

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