Senior Technical Advisor - Safety
Volvo Car Corporation
Since 1995, Thomas Broberg has worked with Volvo Cars in various positions in the area of Safety. With a background in Computer Aided Engineering and Calculus, he holds a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Chalmers University of Technology.
Thomas has been an integral part of the Volvo Cars safety Center management team since 1999, having held a variety of management positions. He was the Deputy Director of the Safety Center between 2003 and 2006. In his current role he acts as a Technical Advisor within Safety for Volvo Cars while also conducting his own research within the Safety arena.
Cars are driven by people. That one simple fact is at the heart of Volvo's approach to safety - always has been, always will be.
An alert, relaxed and informed driver is a safer driver. That's why we've designed your driving environment - from the dashboard to the seats - to help ensure you're as focused and aware of your surroundings as possible.
Cool, Calm, Collected And Safe
Volvo's holistic approach to safety means that the Volvo safety researchers also think about the driver's well-being. Volvo's research demonstrates that a combination of good seat comfort, well positioned instrumentation and a good traffic information system helps to reduce the risk of accidents, as does setting the Electronic Climate Control system at a comfortable temperature, as a driver exposed to heat has a higher risk of making mistakes.
Meet The World's Cleverest Dummy
Modern dummies are built to replicate the human body - they have the same weight, size and proportions as the humans they represent. Their heads are designed to react to stress like real heads, as are other anatomical parts, such as the neck, knees and thorax. Inside, they have electronics used to measure acceleration and deceleration, displacement, and the various forces that their bodies experience during a crash.
These measurements can be used to determine how the human body is affected when a car is stopped abruptly. The twisting motions of various parts of the dummy's body are studied, as are the various loads to which it is subjected. These measurements allow Volvo safety researchers to gather as much data as possible and to draw conclusions about the likely effects of real road traffic accidents on the human body.
The airbag is a safety innovation that has been designed to complement the safety belt. It can fully inflate in less than 30 milliseconds as it deploys out of the steering wheel hub. The airbag is designed to spread the load of an impact over a wide surface area and therefore helps to reduce the stress on an occupant. Volvo uses airbags that inflate with a force that varies according to the speed.
The more we know about how a car reacts before, during and after an accident, the safer we can make it. That's why we created the Volvo Safety Centre Test Laboratory - the most technologically advanced crash-test facility in the world. It's also why we've ensured all our cars safety systems work together in the event of an accident, to help reduce the risk of injury as much as possible.
Anatomy Of A Car Crash
Your car's passive safety systems have only half a second to help you in the event of an accident. In a frontal collision, the car's nose will deform to absorb the impact energy. Simultaneously, the driver and passenger airbags will be deployed with a force that varies according to the size of the impact.
The pre-tensioners on the three-point, inertia-reel safety belts of all new Volvo cars tighten the belts, while at the same time, a force limiter allows the belts to give a little when they are subject to a predetermined force. This helps to cushion the wearer in a controlled manner.
The "anti-submarining" seats help to prevent any injury to your abdomen by preventing you from sliding under your belt.
It's A Belter
In 1959, Nils Bohlin, a Volvo safety engineer, invented the three-point safety belt we know so well today. The following year, it was fitted as standard on the Amazon and the PV544. So important was this invention considered to be, in 1985 it was named by the West German patent office as one of the eight inventions of most benefit to mankind to appear in the last 100 years.
The Complex World
In the real world, a crash can occur in many different ways; it can occur at different speeds, take place in different traffic environments and the passengers inside the car may encompass a range of different sizes.
Volvo Cars intends to take into account various different traffic situations and different traffic environments that can be encountered globally when designing the safety elements built into its cars. In addition to Volvo's own work, independent crash-test rating institutes perform standardized crash tests under certain predicted conditions.
Safety, Well-Being & Security: The Whole Picture
Well-being and Preventative Safety Systems
This technology helps you to avoid accidents by enabling you to drive more safely. Some of this technology, such as ABS anti-lock braking systems, has been around for many years, but Volvo continues to develop safety systems that may make driving in the future safer than ever. Volvo believes that a comfortable, focused and secure driver is also a safer driver.
Protective Safety Systems
These are all of the systems on Volvo cars that are called into play at the moment a crash is unavoidable. Examples on passive safety systems include safety belts, airbags, and WHIPS whiplash protection system.
This area of research includes the development of security items such as the latest alarm technology and anti-theft glass, but also includes research into the well-being of drivers and passengers. The result of research into well-being has led to the development of a range of new technologies including orthopaedically developed seats and hypo-allergenic interiors.
The Volvo Safety Center Test Laboratory: Cutting-Edge Safety
What is the Volvo Safety Center Test Laboratory?
It is the most technically advanced crash-test facility in the world and a mammoth project in its own right, as 65,000 cubic meters of rock had to be moved to build it. The total investment was US$86 million at its launch in the year 2000.
How does it work?
The main hall is like a giant hub to which two tunnels are attached. The first tunnel is fixed; the second can be moved by up to 90 degrees so that a variety of different crash-test angles can be produced. Cars are propelled down the tunnels to collide in the central hall using laser instrumentation so accurate that it can control the point of impact to within a few centimeters. The cars can also be crashed into a special crash barrier in order to replicate many different types of collisions. The crash barrier itself weighs 800 tons and can withstand the huge impact of a 12-ton truck hitting it at 80 km/h.
What happens on impact?
At the point of collision, special Stalax high-speed cameras capable of shooting 3000 frames per second capture it on film. The use of up to 30 cameras ensures that every important angle is captured. The data that is captured is then analyzed in detail by the research engineers.
How is the tunnel moved?
The 108-meter tunnel is moved on a series of tracks that utilize air-cushion technology in order to lift the tunnel's 600-ton weight. The same technology is also used to move the 800-tonne crash barrier.
How do the cars move down the tunnel?
Technicians use a system normally used in the mining industry to hoist mine carts - although whereas the propulsion system in a mine is used vertically, the same technology is used horizontally in the Safety Center. The system can propel the cars at speeds of up to 120 km/h.
Testing: One, Two, And Three...
Within the Volvo Cars Safety Center, there is a unique piece of safety-testing equipment. The crash simulator is derived from the type of machinery normally used to test a building's resistance to earthquakes, but here it is used to test the steering wheel, airbags and safety belts without damaging the car body.
The parts are attached to the bare shell of a car and put onto a sled where a giant ram pushes it backwards with enough force to simulate the impact of a car crash.
The sled can also simulate the forward-tipping motion of the car and the deformation of specific components that take place in a collision in order to replicate more accurately what happens in a whole car crash.
Did You Know?
Volvo's supercomputer is so fast that it is capable of undertaking up to 45 fully simulated crash-tests every 24 hours. In addition, before it takes part in a real crash-test, each Volvo undergoes many virtual crash-tests on the supercomputer.
Knowledge saves lives. That's why we don't just limit our research to the laboratory or virtual simulations - Volvo's Traffic Accident Research Unit supplies our engineers and designers with invaluable data from accidents in the real world. And what we've learnt not only helps keep Volvo drivers safer - it helps reduce the risk of injuries to other drivers on the road, too.
Accidents Still Happen
Volvo was one of the first car manufacturers in the world to create its own Traffic Accident Research Unit. Since its establishment in 1970, the Swedish Accident Research Team has studied more than 33,000 road traffic accidents.
This experience from real-life accidents and incidents increases the knowledge of how to reduce the number of injures sustained by people in a crash. For example, studies conducted by Volvo's Traffic Accident Research Teams showed that rear collisions were common, and that whiplash injuries were often a consequence.
The solution that the Volvo engineers came up with was WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System). Subsequent research of accidents involving Volvo cars fitted with WHIPS has shown that the system has reduced whiplash injuries of the cars occupants by up to 50 per cent compared to previous Volvos since its introduction. In Thailand, a new crash investigation team has recently been established.
The Elk Test
In Sweden, many elk and other animals are killed in road accidents, and the danger for human car occupants is all too obvious, as the weight of an elk's body crashing into a car can crush the front window and roof.
The Elk Test was brought about to check a car's ability to swerve and avoid a collision. The test is particularly relevant to SUVs, which have a greater tendency to roll than a conventional car.
Volvo reduced this tendency in the XC90, by giving it a low centre of gravity and roll stability control that uses gyroscopic sensors to register the car's roll speed and angle. If a risk of roll is detected, the DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) cuts the power and brakes one or more of the wheels in order for the car to regain stability.
Volvo cares about the impact its cars can have on other road users. For example, when developing its first SUV, the XC90, Volvo took special care to make sure it reduced the increased risk to other road users in the event of an accident.
A typical SUV has high ground clearance and a bumper that may create a greater risk of damage to an oncoming car and its passengers. This is because the lower car's protective beams and crumple zones slip below the front of the SUV without being activated.
In order to avoid this, the XC90's front suspension subframe is supplemented with a lower cross-member concealed behind the front spoiler at the height of the beam in a conventional car. The lower cross-member is designed to strike the oncoming car's protective structure earlier than normal, activating its safety systems as intended. NOTE: The all-new XC70 also shares the same technology.
Considerable attention has also been given to the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other unprotected road users. The front of the car features clean, smooth lines, with no protruding parts that could cause additional injuries - and this is a design characteristic that is now applied to all new Volvo cars. In addition to this, the engine in the Volvo XC90 is installed low in the vehicle. As a result, the hood has no less than 80mm of deformation space before there is any contact with the engine below it. It therefore serves as a soft, impact-absorbing 'bumper', helping to reduce the risk of serious injury in the event of a pedestrian being thrown onto the vehicle's hood.
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