Ford puts its balls inside rivals' rides

If you've ever read the spec sheet for an automobile, you probably noticed that many manufacturers give you capacities for every nook and cranny inside the vehicle. I've often wondered exactly how Ford and other automakers determine that there's more storage space inside their car than a competitor. I always figured it involved tape measures and math.

Ford actually uses ping-pong balls to measure the capacity of the storage spaces such as consoles, cup holders, and glove boxes in its vehicles and in competitor's vehicles. Ford says that its new Escape will hold approximately 56,778 ping-pong balls. Apparently using ping-pong balls to measure capacities of vehicles is more accurate than other methods for odd-shaped spaces.

Ford used to go with a tape measure and use the tried-and-true length x width x height to get a volume, just as you did in elementary school. The problem for Ford was that if two people measured the same glove box, they would often come up with different measurements because of the oddly shaped space. The company started using ping-pong balls because engineers have a cubic measurement for each ping-pong ball that accounts for the open space between the stack of balls. That measurement combined with the number of ping-pong balls in the space determines an exact and repeatable volume of space that doesn't vary.