The Escape is a vehicle that isn’t sold in India, but this story from Ford was too interesting to ignore. Ford North America asks how many pingpong balls fit into an all-new Ford Escape? Approximately 56,778.

Ford Escape Interior Space Pingpong Balls 01

Ford used to estimate the volume of glove boxes, cubby holes and other smaller cargo spaces in their vehicles with measuring tape. The boffins at Ford though were not convinced this was accurate or consistent enough thanks to all the angles and curves that make up the spaces. During a brainstorming session, a Ford engineer suggested the use of pingpong balls to measure space.

‘It probably doesn’t seem like it, but pingpong balls are more accurate than using a tape measure to get the volume of odd-shaped spaces like a glove compartment,” said Eric Jackson, Vehicle Architecture supervisor. “It was just a quirky idea that came out of a team brainstorm,” he adds. “But we then did some studies using pingpong balls and found capacities were more consistently measured.”

Ford Escape Interior Space Pingpong Balls 02

Jackson’s team found that if two people measure the same console with a measuring tape, they often will come up with different results due to the wide variations of the method. However, if two people use pingpong balls to measure volume, they are more likely to get the same answer.

The precise way volume is measured with pingpong balls is is explained by Sejal Shreffler, Ford Accommodation and Usage engineer. Ford engineers have arrived at the volume occupied by each pingpong ball that accounts for the open space in between a stack of balls. They then use that measurement and account for the number of pingpong balls in the storage space to determine total volume of a space.

As you would expect in addition to this method, engineers also use computer-aided design (CAD) renderings to compute volume. Shreffler and her team also use a laser scanner device that allows Ford to get surface data in CAD on competitors. Shreffler can get a 3D digital representation of the visible surfaces on the vehicle. The surface data is then digitized and the space is evaluated in CAD. This technology can be used to measure different areas of the vehicle to compute anything from cargo volumes to the dashboard console or glove box volumes.

“Our team scans dozens of consumer goods from iPads to mountain bikes and wheelchairs to ensure these objects not only fit into our vehicles, but that there is a proper place for them,” said Shreffler.

Ford Escape Interior Space Pingpong Balls 03