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Real world reality and high-tech simulation meet in new Volvo Safety Centre


For immediate release

Real world reality and high-tech simulation meet in


new Volvo Safety Centre


GÖTEBORG, SWEDEN - A US$100 million addition to the Volvo Car Corporation Safety Centre has created the world's most advanced safety research facility, bringing together the ability to stage real world crash tests with high-tech simulations as part of a comprehensive program which extends the company's leadership in automotive safety.


The highlight of the new Volvo Cars Safety Centre is a crash test laboratory with a moveable test track carried on air cushions that permits researchers to stage car-to-car impacts in a wide number of combinations that simulate real world collisions. The moveable track, which swings through an arc of up to 90 degrees to stage impacts ranging from full-frontal to right-angle 'T-bone' collisions, is the first of its kind in the world. Laser instruments precisely control the speed of the cars to ensure they collide at pre-determined impact points.


The laboratory actually has two tracks - 154 metres and 108 metres respectively - that meet in a huge hall with 14.5-metre high ceilings and a glass floor (housing some of the many high-speed cameras used to study the crashes). The fixed track can be used for roll-over tests.


The new Centre, which opened in April, includes other innovative features:


An advanced crash test barrier effectively measures the forces created in an offset impact, one of the most common kinds of collisions. The new barrier is fitted with piezo-electric sensors which measure in two directions to determine how the car=s energy-absorbent structure handles these impacts. The barrier, which weighs 850 tonnes and is comprised of a concrete core reinforced with iron ore and surrounded by a 30 cm steel plate, is moved on air cushions to create precise offsets.


A component testing program examines what happens when the human body collides with parts of the interior or exterior of the car. A series of >rigs= can perform repetitive testing to help fine-tune the design of individual components. One, called the FMH (for Free Motion Head), is used to assess the forces when a human head strikes interior parts of the car. A similar rig replicates the impact of the human torso, legs and knees against interior components (as might be experienced by passengers) or exterior parts (as might be experienced by pedestrians). Another rig consists of a door panel fitted on a swing which hits a test dummy in a car seat with a pre-determined force, resembling the intrusion of a door panel in a side collision. The rigs reduce the need to conduct full-scale crash tests to examine the performance of individual components.


The world's most advanced crash simulator permits repetitive tests of components like occupant restraint systems. In a crash simulation, the 'car' is a reinforced body with everything but the interior removed. Crash test dummies and occupant safety systems like air bags are then set up and the car is fired backwards at high velocity, simulating the deceleration that would be encountered in a collision. The system can simulate the forward pitching motion occupants experience in a collision to make the tests as real as possible.


An NEC SX-4 supercomputer performs virtual tests of car and component designs to help the engineering and development process. Volvo's supercomputer capacity permits a crash situation to be simulated any number of times, swiftly and inexpensively, at different speeds with different types of safety equipment and different sized occupants. This process helps determine the car's basic safety characteristics at an early stage in the development process, long before any physical prototypes are available for crash tests.


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Lisa Graham

Volvo Cars of Canada Ltd.



Doug Mepham

MacDonald & Co.


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