Ford investigates virtual pothole map

A crowd-sourced virtual pothole map could help prevent costly repairs.

Ford is researching the idea, which would show drivers in real-time, on in-car displays, where potholes are, how bad they are, and suggest alternative routes.

Testing is due to start later this year.

Bad road surfaces contribute to more than a third of all accidents every year and with freezing temperatures expected throughout Europe, there could be more cracked and potholed roads than ever.

In the UK alone, a pothole damage claim is received by local authorities every 17 minutes – with claims averaging £432. In 2011, 20 million potholes were reported in Europe but only half were filled – at an estimated cost of more than €1.2bn.

Uwe Hoffmann, research engineer, Advanced Chassis Control Technologies, Ford of Europe, ‘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. Our cars already feature sensors that detect potholes and now we are looking at taking this to the next level.’

Ford models including Galaxy, Mondeo and S-MAX already use on-board sensors for Continuously Controlled Damping with Pothole Mitigation, which detects potholes using sensors and adjusts the suspension to help reduce any potential damage.

Engineers are now researching the use of cameras and embedded modems, at the Ford Research and Innovation Centre, in Aachen, 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.