Ford's digital map to warn drivers of potholes

Ford's digital map to warn drivers of potholes

Cameras fitted to vehicles will record the condition of road surfaces and share the information

A DIGITAL map of Britain’s roads is being developed by Ford that will alert motorists to dangerous potholes.

The car maker is planning to fit vehicles with cameras to record the condition of road surfaces. The images will be instantly uploaded to the map and shared with other vehicles, enabling cars to warn their drivers of danger ahead.

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Councils have admitted potholes are likely to worsen over the next year because of a surge in the number of heavy lorries wearing down roads. Official figures show that British-registered heavy goods vehicles transported 5% more cargo in the year ending June 2016 than in the previous 12 months, a total of 1.7bn tons.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which obtained the figures from the Department for Transport, said underfunding had left local roads facing an unprecedented crisis, with fears that a rise in the weight of lorries could push the network “over the edge”.

Separate figures already show that local roads are deteriorating badly: at the end of last year the amount of time needed to fill all the potholes in Britain was estimated at 14 years, up from 11 years a decade ago.

Councils fix almost 2m potholes a year, but it seems faster repairs are needed to keep up with the decline of the road network.

The LGA said that, using current projections, the repair bill was set to soar to £14bn by 2019.

“Motorists should literally be bracing themselves for a surge in potholes”

Martin Tett, the authority’s transport spokesman, said: “Motorists should literally be bracing themselves for a surge in potholes. Our local roads network faces an unprecedented funding crisis and the latest spike in lorries could push our local roads network over the edge. Lorries exert massively more weight on road surfaces than cars, causing them to crumble far quicker.”

Drivers are able to make claims against local authorities for damage caused by potholes, and 31,483 demands for compensation were lodged in 2015-16. Councils paid out in a quarter of cases.

The Ford technology could help motorists avoid deep potholes altogether. Engineers at its research and innovation centre in Aachen, Germany, are making cameras with built-in modems that will gather information on the road surface as vehicles are driven.

It will be relayed to a cloud database and fed into a sat nav-style map. It is believed that other drivers using the map will then receive a warning as they approach a pothole or other imperfection on the road, allowing them to steer around it.

The system could be available in cars by the end of this year. Ford’s Galaxy, Mondeo and S-Max models already have a system that detects potholes using on-board sensors and adjusts the suspension to mitigate any damage.

Uwe Hoffmann, a research engineer at Ford, said: “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.”

This article first appeared in The Times