All automakers must test their vehicle prototypes on public roadways before they’re made available for purchase. The pitfall to this forced testing is that these vehicles are extremely vulnerable to unwanted exposure, especially at a time where most adults have a smartphone on their person at all times. To contest this dilemma, Ford is using advanced camouflage technology that shields its new designs from both the public and its competitors.
The Dearborn-Mich.-based company said in a Thursday news release that it’s covering test vehicles with specially patterned stickers that mask the body line and trick the human eye. The designs cause even more havoc for cameras because the photos end up looking obscure.
Ford said specially patterned vinyl stickers are an improvement over traditional vinyl cladding camouflage because the same sticker can be used on any vehicle. The stickers are also easier to install, more durable and lightweight, don’t trap heat, and have little impact on the vehicle’s aerodynamics.
Ford’s advanced game of hide-and-seek isn’t just about stickers. The company also develops body panels that change the dimensions of the vehicle so that it looks much different than how it will appear at the dealership.
Hiding designs from both the general public and competitors is crucial to Ford’s vehicle sales.
“While design is the fourth most important reason for purchase in the industry overall, it’s number two only behind fuel economy for Ford,” said Dave Fish, senior V.P. of Expert Services at MaritzCX, which creates customer studies of new vehicles for Ford. “It’s not surprising Ford goes to extraordinary lengths to try to keep the wraps on its designs as long as possible.”
Though Ford is already using new technologies to camouflage its prototypes, the company said its engineers will continue to develop more advanced techniques so that it can stay a step ahead of snooping photographers and the improving cameras that they use.
“The work we’re doing is crucial to Ford staying competitive in a constantly evolving industry,” said John LaQue, Ford section supervisor of Prototype Planning and Build. “When we make it to a reveal without a photo surfacing of a non-camouflaged car, we have all done our jobs.”