Whether repairing cars, fixing potholes, or maintaining gas and water supplies, many workers have to operate in high-risk environments in order to reduce disruption in our lives. Every year, far too many of these workers are injured or killed on Europe’s roads. And that’s precisely what inspired a new solution for the Ford Transit and Transit Custom in the UK.
Traditional reflective panels can be helpful, 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 corner. To circumvent these issues, Ford has designed a first-of-its-kind Electronic High Visibility Panel that doesn’t rely on other light sources to be clearly visible. The red stripes are illuminated by electricity passing through a thin layer of phosphorus gas – a technology already used in airplane cockpits and on screens for medical and military equipment.
Ford trialed 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.
Now available for Ford Transit and Transit Custom models in the UK, turning on the Electronic High Visibility Panels is as easy as flipping a switch behind the driver’s seat. Northumbrian Water Group is the first commercial user of this new technology, while Ford is also currently exploring opportunities to make Electronic High Visibility Panels available in other European countries.
“Roadside working is a necessary and sometimes dangerous part of the job for many of our customers,” said Simon Robinson, chief program engineer, Special Vehicle Engineering, Ford of Europe. “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.”
“I’m delighted to see an idea that stemmed from our drivers working in partnership with Ford’s product innovation team come to life,” added Kate Wilson, transport manager, Northumbrian Water Group. “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.”