Jumping Potholes

fusionFord’s new 2017 Fusion Sport sedan has a high-tech feature that allows the car to essentially ‘jump’ over potholes.

When the new model of the country’s third-most popular midsize sedan goes on sale this summer, it will come standard with a system that looks ahead for potholes and then prevents the wheel from dropping to the bottom.

Here’s how it works:
A dozen high-resolution sensors anticipate when the car is about to hit a pothole. They send that information to the onboard computer, which directs the shock absorbers to adjust to their stiffest hydraulic damping level. That prevents the suspension from sagging and lets the tire skip across the void without slamming into the base or opposite side of the hole as harshly.

fusionFord demonstrated the technology in a test video with the assistance of ping pong balls: The wheels of the Fusion Sport don’t harm the balls placed at the bottom of a pothole, but the tires of a rival vehicle touch and crush them.

It reduces the impact greatly, but there’s always one pothole that no amount of technology will protect you from.

Ford said the pothole mitigation technology will be a first in the midsize sedan category. The automaker is attempting to differentiate itself from segment-leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

fusionHigh-end Lincolns, including the MKS and MKZ, have the system. It also is debuting in Europe on Ford’s Mondeo, Galaxy and S-MAX.

The American Automobile Association released a study claiming pothole damage cost U.S. drivers $15 billion in vehicle repairs over the last five years, or about $3 billion annually.

Ford developed the Fusion’s pothole mitigation technology after thousands of passes over potholes at its Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo.

In later stages of development, the team tested it on real-world roads throughout Metro Detroit, and would even complain when road crews patched certain holes.

Beyond Michigan, Ford has developed a 1.2-mile road course in Lommel, Belgium, that creates precise replicas of some of the worst potholes and road hazards from countries like Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Switzerland.

The test track isn’t limited to potholes; it contains tricky road surfaces like granite blocks from Belgium, cobbles from Paris and speed bumps from Brazil.

In ordinary driving, the continuously controlled suspension system improves the car’s ride and handling qualities by adjusting to various road surfaces and driving demands.