...investigation, development, and production
Think about years of preparation for an event that is over in 70 thousandths of a second, or for an event that may never happen at all! In its simplest form this is the safety equation for Volvo engineers. "We develop safety for real people in real world situations - for life", says Ingrid Skogsmo, Safety Director at Volvo Car Corporation in Sweden.
While performance, styling, and cost of operation are key factors to purchasing a vehicle, safety is an increasingly important consideration for consumers.
Annually, there are more than 40,000 fatalities on US roadways. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans 1-34 years old. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the total societal cost of crashes exceeds $230 billion annually.
The statistics are good reason that auto safety is attracting greater interest and attention in recent years. The obvious conclusion is that by reducing the number of people killed and injured in traffic accidents, human suffering is alleviated as well as helping to resolve the problem of exorbitant costs associated with traffic accidents.
There are essentially three elements that influence in the occurrence, and consequences, of an accident: the human factor, the vehicle, and the traffic environment. Volvo Cars bases all of its design and development of cars on the human being - literally building cars from the inside out - a design philosophy which the company has adopted since its inception in 1927.
The Safety Circle
Volvo's approach to safety can be best described with the help of a circle; a continuous process which begins and ends in the real-life traffic environment.
Since 1970, the Volvo Accident Research team has been dissecting and analyzing traffic accidents to better understand the complicated mechanisms connected with various types of collisions. The research focuses on how the vehicle and its systems and components function and influence the risk of injury to occupants.
"A key to protecting vehicle occupants is predictability," says Skogsmo. "The more we know about the impact forces in an accident and the dynamics of the vehicle the more we can know about what will happen in the event of a real-world accident."
When a Volvo car is involved in an accident (within approximately 1 hour of travel distance from Volvo headquarters in Göteborg, SWE), the Volvo Traffic Accident Research team is dispatched by the emergency service center, a vehicle recovery service company, or the police,...no matter what time of day, or night.
A team member will drive to the scene of accidents selected for investigation - if at all possible, the police will wait to move the car until a primary analysis of the scene has been conducted and reported.
"In addition to the detailed hands-on knowledge we get from the in-depth on-the scene investigations, we acquire statistical material relating to traffic accidents. This helps Volvo to chart the probability of various situations, and consequently give valuable priority to relevant matters when developing new cars," says Skogsmo.
To date, Volvo has amassed a database of more than 35,000 accidents., involving over 50.000 occupants.
When gathered, info is analyzed by Volvo Safety Center personnel, design engineers, and medical experts - with feedback made available to all development departments.
Using the data and knowledge acquired from real world situations, Volvo has developed and refined in-house testing methods (with hi-tech crash dummies, computer animation, etc.),...that simulate the real world environment, as far as possible, analyzing collision tests in the laboratory. The unique knowledge has also been fundamental in defining new areas for enhancing safety - often resulting in world-first, pioneering designs - such as the Whiplash protection system, WHIPS (introduced in 1998).
In the last couple of years, the cause of accident occurrence is also studied by the Accident Research Team, in order to contribute to help avoid accidents.
Volvo's in-house requirements are far more stringent than prevailing safety legislation and regulation. With a 'Circle of Safety' approach, Volvo monitors its own vehicles and continually seeking to create ways to make their vehicles safer.
The next stage in the chain concerns the development of components, systems and complete designs that comply with extremely rigorous requirements.
This work is performed with design engineers cooperating closely with the various safety experts, both inside and outside of Volvo. Volvo has a long tradition of applying safety processes to all phases and at all levels in vehicle development.
Crash tests are performed continuously in various forms during the development stages in order to study if the design and the solutions are meeting either existing or newly evolved Volvo standards. More than 40-45 full-scale tests (computer simulations) are per day along with approximately 450 crash tests performed every year in Volvo's crash test laboratory. Thousands of tests are also performed on components and systems. (Check with computer animation - how measured).
Advanced technology is used in all testing to acquire as much measurable data as possible. Ultra high speed filming (up to 3,000 frames per second), from multiple angles record exactly what happens during an actual crash sequence. Precision is key. Volvo has always strived for over-night performance with it's computer simulations, but with increased technology it is now possible for more tests per day, with greater complexity of the computer models.
Accelerometers placed in the car and in the dummies register the impact forces. Physical testing is supplemented by calculations and simulations. All told, in one crash test dummy there can be about 100 sensors.
Computerized evaluation is an invaluable aid in the early stages of testing to enable Volvo to choose between similar concepts.
Calculations are used for developing theoretical models that are superior to the physical aids which are used for testing. Computer models can simulate human beings better than physical dummies. This applies above all to complex parts of the human body, such as the neck. For example, Volvo was the first car manufacturer with a pregnant woman crash test model simulation. Her purpose is to test seat belt design, but the concept goes beyond seat belts.
Production cars bring us back to where we began - in traffic. Once in the real world, Volvo performs as a Volvo - predictably - just in case that bad day, happens.
When Volvo cars leave the laboratories and production lines is where Volvo cars are truly measured - in addition to assessments by media and institutions, which perform their own ratings tests.
The Closed Circle
The ambition of building perhaps the safest cars in the world relies not only on compliance with current legal requirements, but a holistic real world approach to safety. Volvo's philosophy is that long-term and consistent use of experiences gained from road accidents, combined with exhaustive and comprehensive impact tests in laboratories and computer simulations, give the best possible protection in as many accident situations as possible.
For information on how Volvo Cars process your personal data in relation to Volvo Cars Global Newsroom click here.