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Ford's high-tech crash tests help meet worldwide safety standards [Detroit Free Press :: ]
[March 10, 2014]

Ford's high-tech crash tests help meet worldwide safety standards [Detroit Free Press :: ]

(Detroit Free Press (MI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 11--It takes massive computing power, expensive dummies and about 600 full-scale crash tests a year to ensure Ford and Lincoln vehicles meet safety standards for every market in the world.

Ford recently completed its 20,000th crash test since 1954 at its facility in Dearborn and the automaker has more than 500 safety engineers around the world who have conducted more than 31,000 tests at 1,800 sites around the world. It took 40 years to conduct the first 20,000 tests and half that time for the next 10,000, said Jackie Shuk, Ford chief engineer for North American vehicle evaluation and verification and global testing.

The Dearborn crash test site does five full vehicle crashes of every description a day, Shuk said, while a nearby facility has completed 10,000 servo sled tests where a dummy is strapped onto a moving platform to hit a barrier.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Engineers spend weeks running thousands of computer simulations before a car is launched at 30 miles per hour into a wall, said Nand Kochhar, Ford global safety chief engineer.

Ford has more than 100 dummies, a family ranging from an 18-month-old toddler for child seat testing to a large male. Dummies range in price from $50,000 to as much as $700,000 each when fully instrumented with up to 100 devices installed from head to foot streaming 300 channels of data documenting the impact and its effects.

In addition to preparing the dummies, the crash vehicle is painted to highlight critical elements, said Jill Lauffer, manager of the body and chassis test lab. Sensors, accelerometers and high-speed cameras are installed to capture as many as 30 different views of the crash and measure the forces of the impact.

The crash test itself is over in a matter of seconds and within half an hour the data is downloaded onto servers so the analysis can begin, said Jerome Ng, who supervises the crash lab.

-- Photo gallery: Ford crash tests -- Mobile users tap here It can take a week or two to gather all the structural data from the crashed car and weeks to complete the analysis before any decisions are made, Kochhar said. Somewhere in Dearborn banks of computers are dedicated just to safety data.

Ford has increased its computing power 50% in the last decade and is doubling its power every two years, Kochhar said. "We can do more simulations resulting in safer products." In fact, Ford has processed more than 2 million crash test simulations in the past decade as it strives to meet regulations and new car assessment programs that vary by country and even by agency within a country.

"This facility can test to meet all of them," said Steve Kenner, global director of the automotive safety office.

Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle ___ (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press Visit the Detroit Free Press at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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