Anyone who has to pull their van up on the side of a busy road and get to work knows how dangerous it can be. Traffic whipping past at high speeds, especially in the dark, can be unnerving, and you’re reliant on those drivers paying attention to see where you are. One trade association also estimates that out of around 5,000 roadside recovery technicians, there are typically 6-8 fatalities each year.
Light-up rear warning panels
Ford has come up with a potential solution to this issue, or at least an innovation that might help a little. Noting that: “Reflective panels can be a help, especially on long, dark winter nights. But they are reliant on the headlights of other vehicles for illumination and can be less effective when approached from around a bend,” Ford has created what it calls Electronic High Visibility Panels.
These don’t need the lights of another car to reflect — they are lit up themselves by electricity passing through a thin layer of phosphorus gas – technology already used in aeroplane cockpits and on screens for medical and military equipment.
Tested in the field already
Ford trialled the panels in collaboration with Northumbrian Water Group, in the UK, enabling engineers to monitor their effectiveness in real-world scenarios and to gauge the benefits of panels that light up – even when other drivers neglect to activate their headlights.
The Electronic High Visibility Panels are now going to be available on Ford Transit and Transit Custom models, and Ford says that you only need to flick a simple switch to activate them.
As safe as possible
“Roadside working is a necessary and sometimes dangerous part of the job for many of our customers. We want to ensure that what is often essential work can be carried out as safely and effectively as possible. Creating panels that can be illuminated without having to rely on other sources of light was literally a ‘light bulb’ moment,”
said Simon Robinson, chief program engineer, Special Vehicle Engineering, Ford of Europe.
“I’m delighted to see an idea that stemmed from our drivers working in partnership with Ford’s product innovation team come to life. It will improve safety not only in our sector, but in future fleets across the world, and I know that it will make our teams who work in dangerous roadside environments feel safer and much more visible to our customers,”
said Kate Wilson, transport manager, Northumbrian Water Group.