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Thermal Imaging Technology Used To Hunt Criminals Helps Ford Detect Air Leaks, Design Quieter Vehicles

DEARBORN, Mich., June 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 

  • For the first time in the auto industry, technology used by military and law enforcement to catch hard-to-find bad guys is now being used by Ford engineers to better identify air leaks and help improve interior quietness in vehicles
  • Interior quietness is key in consumers' overall perception of vehicle quality; internal Ford data indicate customers are more satisfied with the interior quietness of the new Ford Fusion compared to the Toyota Camry
  • Leaks from vulnerable areas in a vehicle, including moonroofs, window glass and door trim, create points for the entrance of air, water and noise; Ford data show new Fusion has fewer leaks and road noise issues than Toyota Camry

Ford engineers are pioneering thermal imaging technology – similar to what law enforcement agents use to track down criminals – to find and eliminate air leaks in vehicle cabins. The result is less wind noise and a quieter ride, which is key to customer satisfaction with vehicle quality.

Thermal imaging is the use of cameras to photograph heat in the environment. Thermal imaging cameras capture the radiation present that appears as an infrared image. In Ford tests, air leaks show up as hot spots when heated air escapes a vehicle.

Data from Ford's U.S. Global Quality Research System show the 2013 Ford Fusion earned a 67 percent approval rating for interior quietness compared to 58 percent for the 2012 Toyota Camry.

Fusion data were for the first quarter of 2013, compared to full-year 2012 data for the Toyota Camry, which did not receive major updates for 2013. The 2013 first-quarter study, conducted for Ford by RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., asked owners of all major makes and models to comment on troubles and rate their overall satisfaction with their three-month-old vehicles.

"Ford is redefining our vehicles through many innovations – both features to improve the driving experience and fuel economy, and advanced new tools to help engineer better vehicles," said William Dedecker, noise, vibration and harshness engineering supervisor. "We are using thermal imaging to further improve quietness so customers can enjoy the other features our vehicles offer, such as audio systems...and even the sounds of silence."

Thermal imaging technology allows police to see through bushes and into dark alleys. While a bad guy hiding at night might not be visible to the eye, a thermal image of the area will show his body heat and allow law enforcement to move in.

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