Before some scout troop raffles off a new 2013 Ford Escape by having you try to guess how many ping-pong balls are stuffed inside, I’ll save you the trouble. Ford says it holds “approximately” 56,778.
Strange as it may seem, Ford designers are using table tennis balls as a way of measuring interior storage spaces inside its vehicles and rivals. Forget tape measures or good old fashioned computer-aided design. It turned out that the balls were consistently more accurate when it came to multiple people trying to come up with the same answer.
“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, Ford’s vehicle architecture supervisor, in a statement.
Using the two dimensions of a tape measure, then doing the math to try to get three dimensions, didn’t exactly get the kind of volume measure that Ford engineers wanted. With the balls, engineers can take the count then add in the known volume between them.
Ping-pong balls aren’t being used the most to figure out the overall capacity of the vehicle. Rather, it’s about all the little cubbies found in a modern crossover or car. For the Escape, they include a hidden storage bin in the back seat and the cup holders in front.