Ford has a unique way of measuring interior storage spaces inside its vehicles and those of its competitors, and it’s not with a ruler; it’s with ping pong balls.

“It probably doesn’t seem like it, but ping pong 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.

Many years ago, Ford would estimate the capacity of glove boxes, centre consoles and other small areas of a vehicle using a measuring tape, and taking length times width times height to find the volume. But with all the angles, curves and other odd shapes in a vehicle, engineers and designers were not satisfied with the accuracy or consistency of this method. According to Jackson, a Ford engineer then came up with the idea of using ping pong balls to measure spaces.

“It was just a quirky idea that came out of a team brainstorm,” says Jackson. “But we then did some studies using ping pong balls and found capacities were more consistently measured.”
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 ping pong balls to measure volume, they are more likely to get the same answer.

The precise way volume is measured with ping pong balls is fairly simple, explains Sejal Shreffler, Ford Accommodation and Usage engineer. Ford engineers have developed a cubic measurement for each ping pong ball that accounts for the open space in between a stack of balls. They then use that measurement and account for the number of ping pong balls in the storage space to determine total volume of a space.