DEARBORN – March 14 isn’t just another day on the calendar for Ford engineers. To them, and to many other math fanatics around the world, today is Pi Day (3.14 day), a holiday recognizing the role mathematics has in everyday life. At Ford, math plays a critical role in developing smarter, safer and more fuel-efficient cars like the all-new Fusion.
“When someone sees an all-new Fusion driving down the street, what they’re really looking at is a mathematical machine processing thousands upon thousands of equations every millisecond,” said Gil Portalatin, Ford Motor Company product development engineer. “Without math, the Fusion is a completely different vehicle from the way it looks to the way it drives.”
Ford Pi Day celebrations
Ford engineers aren’t just keeping the celebration of math inside the walls of the company’s research and product development facilities in Dearborn, Mich.; they are spreading Pi Day cheer to the World Wide Web and local schools.
On March 14 at 11 a.m. EDT, Ford engineers will post a different math equation every 3 minutes and 14 seconds to www.reddit.com and ask the community to solve each one. The first person to correctly answer one of the 42 total equations wins “Reddit Gold,” which gives users special exclusive features for their account.
In addition, Ford engineers are letting high school students see firsthand how math was used to develop the all-new, 2013 Ford Fusion. Students from two Henry Ford Academies in Detroit will hear Ford engineers talk about how math helped shape the car. The students will then be challenged to answer three mathematics equations using actual measurements from the car.
Math and Fusion fuel efficiency
The all-new Fusion is expected to deliver best-in-class fuel economy. The hybrid version will offer at least 47 mpg in the city, a rating that wouldn’t have been possible without the key role math played in its development.
“We used math to make the Fusion more aerodynamic, to reduce its rolling resistance and to find the right inflation point for the tires,” said Portalatin. “Then we used math to figure out the Fusion’s fuel economy, or miles per gallon, by taking distance traveled by time and dividing it by the amount of energy used.”
Math and Fusion safety
The all-new Fusion offers an unprecedented portfolio of driver assistance technologies based on sensors, cameras and radar that enable the car to see, perform mathematical equations, make a decision and respond.
Fusion math can help drivers maintain proper lane position (Lane Keeping System), guide them when in reverse and see if any vehicles are inside the driver’s blind spots (Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS®).
The car’s adaptive front airbags vent and tether to conform to a specific occupant’s size, position and seat belt usage all by using mathematical formulas. Even Fusion airbags, including dual first-row knee airbags, deploy based on math formulas performed in milliseconds that measure the force of impact and the time it takes to hit the sensors.
Math and Fusion technology
Fusion also uses math to park itself by employing sensors that can identify a suitable parallel parking space, calculate the trajectory and steer the car to properly position it within the spot. All a driver needs to do is operate the accelerator and brake pedals.
Math is a key part of the Fusion’s adaptive cruise control system as well. With the adaptive cruise control system, the Fusion constantly calculates the speed and distance a vehicle is ahead of you. Fusion then decides how much it needs to increase or decrease its speed to maintain the set distance from the other vehicle.
While Pi Day isn’t a national holiday, not getting a day off on March 14 won’t stop Ford engineers from celebrating.
“By celebrating PI Day, we hope to get people to appreciate the impact math has in helping them get from home to work, school or the grocery store,” said Portalatin. “Without math, the auto industry and your vehicles would look and drive completely different.”