Ford pioneers van illuminated rear panels

The commercial vehicle engineers and designers at Ford have turned their attention to the very important issue of driver safety, whether they in the van or working outside around the van. The team have developed a new, first-of-its-kind electronic high-visibility panels, which doesn’t sound too exciting at first until you realise they do not rely on any other light source to be clearly visible in the dark.

These red stripes will be made available on the ‘large’ Transit and also the medium sized Transit Custom. The stripes are illuminated by electricity passing through a thin layer of phosphorus gas, this ‘first’ for the industry is already in use in aeroplane cockpits and on screens for medical and military equipment. When installed, these are activated by a switch behind the driver’s seat.

Safety beyond the van

One of the main safety concerns for van users and particularly roadside workers, such as those repairing cars, fixing potholes, or maintaining gas and water supplies who operate in high-risk environments and standard reflective panels are reliant on the headlights of other vehicles for illumination. This is considered the ‘Achilles heel’ for these types of panels as they can be less effective when approached from around a bend – especially on long, dark winter nights.

“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.”

Northumbrian Water Group

Northumbrian Water Group, trialled the panels 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. After the trial Northumbrian Water Group, which includes Essex & Suffolk Water, became the first commercial users.

“I’m delighted to see an idea that stemmed from our drivers working in partnership with Ford’s product innovation team come to life”, said 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.”

Ford do not quote a price for these new panels nor availability although they aren’t available for the Transit Connect.

Click here to read about Ford’s ‘Guard Mode’ on their new vans