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News of  April 04, 2000


Volvo's New Safety Centre Opens; Offers Unique, State-of-the-Art Testing Capabilities
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Volvo's $100 million investment in automotive safety is now open and in use, helping to develop safer cars and to preserve Volvo's role as a leader in automotive safety.

Some of the most advanced elements are described below:

The new Volvo Cars Safety Centre has the world's most advanced crash barrier, allowing for uniquely more effective measurement of the forces exerted on a car. The new barrier will make it possible for Volvo to do much more realistic crash testing, and learn how to build lighter cars without sacrificing safety. Additionally, the new barrier is versatile enough to allow a far higher number of crash tests can be performed on a complete car -- up to ten per week compared with three today.

Virtual tests in a new NEC SX-4 supercomputer pave the way for faster development of new Volvo car models with even greater precision. Volvo's supercomputer capacity allows for a crash situation to be simulated any number of times, swiftly and inexpensively, at different speeds with different types of safety system and different body sizes for the occupants. Six simulated full-car crashes can be carried out per 24-hour period. The computation models make it possible for Volvo Cars to determine the car's safety characteristics at an early stage in the development process -- long before any physical prototypes are available for crash tests.

With the help of a new, advanced, moving test track carried on air cushions, crashes between two cars moving towards each other can be carried out from all imaginable angles and speeds. The ability to combine two tracks -- one of which can be moved -- makes the laboratory at the Volvo Safety Centre unique in the automotive world. The movable track can be turned by up to 90 degrees, allowing car-to-car impacts from full frontal to right-angled from the side. The majority of the $100 million investment has gone into new technology to make crash tests as realistic as possible.

The main benefit of crash simulation compared with full-scale crash tests is that it is possible to repeat the same crash over and over. Minor adjustments to such things as the function of the safety belt or the airbag activation can be carried out between each test, making it possible for Volvo Cars' crash analysts to gain greater insight into how these and other protection systems should be designed. Volvo's unique new crash simulator produces authentic reactions previously unavailable in simulation, including the "pitch" that occurs when a car tilts forwards during collision and the deformation of the bulkhead between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment in a severe frontal impact.

With the help of a number of new, specially built rigs, studies can be conducted, altered and repeated to discover what happens when parts of the human body collide with parts of the interior or exterior of a car. For example, one rig tests the design of a steering wheel and its direct bearing on safety. Another rig consists of a door panel fitted on a swing which hits a test dummy in the car seat at a predetermined force, resembling the intrusion of a door panel in a side collision.

(March 29, 2000)


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