DEARBORN - Employees at the Ford Safety Lab in Dearborn recently celebrated two important milestones – the 20,000th full-vehicle crash test and the 10,000th run of the Servo Sled, a piece of testing equipment that uses only a portion of a vehicle’s body structure to simulate a collision and measure the effects on crash test dummies.
“The first 10,000 full-vehicle crashes took over 40 years to do. The second 10,000 took under 19 years. I think that’s a pure demonstration of Ford’s commitment to occupant protection,” said Jackie Shuk, chief engineer, North America Vehicle Evaluation and Verification, Global Tests and Investments. “Here at Ford, the verification process is taken very seriously throughout the world, and it’s all about protecting our consumers.”
Many of us have seen crash tests on television, but it’s quite another thing to witness one in person and to even begin to comprehend the level of manpower, technology and expense that goes into each and every test.
“A lot of collaboration and several hundred hours of work from many different people come together for 200 milliseconds worth of data,” said Rodney Simon, product test engineer. “The vehicle crash test data is extensively examined from the crash restraints themselves to the fuel system. The government requires certain standards that we have to meet and Ford has even higher standards than that.”
The testing process is quite complex, according to Jerome Ng, section supervisor, Crash Barrier Operations, Full Vehicle Crash and Dummy Lab.
“There is a lot of labor that goes into just getting a crash ready to run, and the equipment that we need in order to do that work is very specialized so that it can survive these very serious events and be used over and over again,” he said. “In addition, most people don’t realize that the crash dummy itself is not just a mannequin. The dummy was designed in an attempt to represent the biomechanics of the human body. And in some cases, there are nearly 100 sensors within the dummy itself in order to monitor the responses.”
The vehicles themselves are also instrumented extensively, said Ng.
“We install accelerometers to measure point locations all around the vehicle in order to assess the motion as well as the deformation of that vehicle as we’d expect it to perform and absorb the energy of the crash event,” he said. “In some cases, that will represent up to 200 channels of instrumentation that we’re recording every single time we run the test.”
The vehicles that are crashed in the full-vehicle crash tests may represent production models but they are typically hand-built prototypes.
Crash test dummies ready for installation in full-vehicle crash and sled tests
Crash barrier facility runway
Side door of vehicle for crash test No. 20,000
In addition to celebrating the 20,000th full-vehicle crash test, members of the Ford Safety Lab also marked the 10,000th run of the Servo Sled, a piece of testing equipment that utilizes only a portion of a vehicle’s body structure to simulate a collision and measure the effects on crash test dummies.
“The sled was our answer to developing the occupant protection systems earlier in the design process,” said Shuk, noting that Ford has been using the Servo Sled since 2005. “This is valuable tool to prove out the product.”
According to Jill Lauffer, manager, Body and Chassis Safety Test Labs, the Servo Sled enables engineers to test the interaction between test dummies with different restraints and many of the components in the vehicle, such as the instrument panel, the seats, seatbelts and air bags.
“The Servo Sled reduces the time it takes to evaluate the effects of a crash because we are able to run multiple iterations quickly by changing out critical parts,” she said.
Shuk said that the level of dedication demonstrated by the nearly 100 people who comprise the North American Safety Lab team is remarkable.
“Everyone has a personal story because many of us have witnessed a crash or had a friend or family member who was involved in an accident, so it gets right to the heart,” said Shuk. “The work load has been going up over time but this team never took their foot off the pedal. They’re constantly finding ways to deliver a high quality product more efficiently.”
Ford Safety Lab employees hold up sign commemorating 20,000th vehicle crash test.