One could say the nasty crunch of two cars crashing against each other is a sweet sound to the ears of Hans Nyth. For the recently appointed manager of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre at Gothenburg, Sweden, it sounds as good as the word safety, which is a core value of the Volvo Car Corporation.
Experiencing driving pleasure while feeling secure in the knowledge that you and the traffic around you are travelling safely is becoming ever more important in the heavy traffic that we encounter every day. Nyth, who became head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre in March, is proud of the contribution that he and his team makes to achieve this.
Volvo Cars’ unique crash test laboratory at Gothenburg, Sweden, which was officially opened by King Carl XVI Gustaf in 2000, is strategically located between Volvo Cars’ technical centre and the Torslanda factory in Gothenburg. It is here that Nyth oversees about 400 full-scale tests a year.
“Realising our vision – that no one should be killed or injured in a Volvo by the year 2020 – requires a continued holistic approach to safety,” says Nyth, who has a solid 35-year background at Volvo, with extensive experience from producing cars and design. “Our priorities are concentrated on three areas: People, the infrastructure and the car itself.
“Volvo Cars’ work with safety has echoed round the world. In order to retain a leading position with respect to safety, it will remain essential in future to base our work in this area on know-how and our own rigorous safety requirements and to use the right technology to support the driver in various traffic situations,” says Nyth.
With focus on people, Volvo Cars’ Accident Research Team has compiled data from actual traffic accidents since 1970 and now has a database containing information about more than 36 000 traffic accidents involving over 60 000 Volvo cars.
Knowledge gained from real-life traffic accidents and what happens before, during and after an accident is our base and gives us a foundation as well as creating a unique opportunity to reconstruct the chain of events in a traffic accident in the crash test lab. Safety at Volvo Cars encompasses continuous collaboration between designers, technicians and a number of external partners.
About 400 full-scale tests a year
The crash test lab offers infinite opportunities to vary testing conditions and to conduct reconstructions of collisions from actual traffic situations.
There are two test tracks that are 108 and 154 metres long respectively. One of them is moveable and can be positioned between 0 and 90 degrees to test the course of different accidents at various angles and speeds, for example, a crash between two cars that are in motion. In the crash test lab, an enormous mobile collision barrier is also used that can be moved with the help of a hydraulic lifting system with air cushions.
This barrier is used for testing various frontal collisions, side impacts and rear end collisions. However, buses and trucks can also be crash-tested against the barrier. During crash tests, both the cars and the barrier are fitted with sensors in order to register the entire chain of events.
On the fixed track, passenger cars can be crashed at speeds up to 120 km/h and outside, roll-over tests can also be conducted. There is a large outdoor area adjacent to the building where different types of full-scale traffic environments can be constructed.
Some 400 full-scale tests are conducted each year. They are all filmed from a number of different angles using digital, high-speed cameras. Several of the cameras are mounted at a height of 11 meters and others film the accident from inside the car and from below through extremely thick glass.
The latest technology in the Volvo XC60
The Volvo XC60 is the safest Volvo ever and contains all of the latest technology that Volvo Cars can offer in terms of protective and preventive safety. This includes a two-stage integrated booster cushion with a force limiting safety belt, City Safety, the Driver Alert System and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).
Approximately 120 Volvo XC60s had “made the supreme sacrifice” in the lab before this model was launched in 2008. The car has also been virtually crashed several thousand times in computer simulations based on real-life data.
Several of the XC60 crashes have had an audience. The Volvo Cars Safety Centre has room for 200 people to observe the tests, which are guaranteed to be an interesting experience.