Crash test dummies help put our vehicles to the test to determine just how safe they are, but just how much work goes into a dummy to make it as close to a human being as possible?
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) might be revising its five-star crash safety program by adding new tests.
Top 10 Automotive Stories of 2012
With a heavy heart the staff of AutoGuide.com say goodbye to 2012, along with its triumphs and tragedies. We await the New Year with open arms, and welcome its promise of a better world.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 was a year of the dragon, and it proved to be the stuff of legend, but thankfully it wasn’t a fire-breather. The Mayans were flat-out wrong; their doomsday prophecy was about as accurate as Bernie Madoff’s promise of a sound investment opportunity.
Still, the year brought other significant stories. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland discovered a subatomic particle consistent with the legendary Higgs boson. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, passed away, and in a brutal political battle Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States.
Of course the automotive industry made its share of headlines throughout the year. Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 stories from the past 12 months.
Results from a new test being conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) could prompt automakers to modify their cars by making them heavier, more expensive and less fuel efficient.
In a display of continuing safety advancements in automobiles, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that more vehicles have earned the “top safety pick” this year after manufacturers have strengthened the roofs of their vehicles to improve its rollover safety.
Sixty-nine cars, thirty-eight SUVs, five minivans, and three pickups made the “top safety pick” list after passenger safety crashes to the front, side and rear, as well as rollover.
Toyota Motor Corp and Subaru especially excelled as Toyota’s list of top safety pick vehicles grew by three– the Yaris, Camry and Prius hybrid. Subaru is the only automaker to have its entire 2012 line-up earn the highest grade.
[Source: Automotive News]
The slow-selling Fiat 500 hit another snag after NHTSA gave the compact car a three-star crash test rating, a dismal score in an era where five-star ratings are practically ubiquitous.
While the 500 got four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests, the side impact result was a poor two stars. Only the now-dead Dodge Caliber and the Ford Escape (set to be replaced after a decade in production) have achieved similar ratings. The 500′s fellow subcompact competitors like the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Chevrolet Sonic have yet to be crash tested.
The Fiat has been plagued by slow sales, with Chrysler reporting a 173-day supply for the vehicles, and three consecutive months of declining sales figures.
[Source: Automotive News]
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is flatly denying any wrongdoing around the time it took to release data suggesting the Chevrolet Volt might catch fire.
Earlier this week reports surfaced that Volts suffering severe crashes might be at risk of catching fire. GM hasn’t released an official statement explaining the phenomenon, but information leaked from unnamed sources suggesting it might be the liquid cooling system for the car’s lithium ion battery. The fires weren’t even the most disturbing part of the story. It seems the NHTSA actually knew of the defect last May.
By Wednesday U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California along with two other U.S. house members aimed accusations at the NHTSA, saying in a letter that they “deliberately suppressed public knowledge of the safety risk posed by the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery system.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded today saying the accusations were “absolutely not true.”
“We have opened an investigation into battery-related fires that may occur some time after a severe crash,” LaHood said. “Chevy Volt owners can be confident that their cars are safe to drive.”
For now, Chevrolet is doing damage control with the car they otherwise used as a PR poster child. So far they have offered to buy back Volts from any owners who feel unsafe and offered loaner cars to those who simply want the defect fixed.
It won’t be clear what that fix will include until later in the week when GM expects its engineers to arrive at a solution, but speculation thus far suggests it may include a strengthened housing around the battery as well as laminating the battery itself and measures to protect against coolant leaking after a crash.
Other cars like the Nissan Leaf use air in place of liquid cooling systems, meaning they aren’t subject to the same potential hazard.
“As soon as we have additional information on our testing and on our investigation, we’ll disclose it,” LaHood said.
[Source: Automotive News]
A fire involving a Chevrolet Volt that had undergone government crash testing has led to authorities investigating the possibility of requiring emergency responders to drain the batteries of electric and hybrid vehicles following a collision.
A Volt that underwent a 20 mph side-impact crash test caught on fire several weeks later, causing the Volt as well as surrounding vehicles to catch fire. The crash test was said to have punctured the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack. General Motors said that the fire occurred because the battery had not been drained following the crash, though NHTSA officials said that ”we don’t see the risk of electric vehicles as being any greater than that for a gasoline vehicle.”
200,000 car fires are said to occur in the United States annually, but the issue regarding a battery puncture has led NHTSA and GM to investigate the matter closely, despite both insisting that the vehicle is as safe as any other conventional car. GM currently dispatches a team to drain the battery of any Volt that crashes, and is hoping to make the necessary tools available to dealers in the coming year.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
If you’re looking for a good reason not to speed, this is it. Thanks to the inquisitive minds at Fifth Gear we now know the absolutely devastating result of what a 120-mph crash would look like.
Part of an ongoing series looking at crash tests and the safety of modern vehicles the team of eloquently-voiced Brits decided to see what would happen if a Ford Focus crashed into a concrete block at 120-mph – triple the speed of modern crash test procedures. The results are both shocking and terrifying.
Watch the video after the jump:
Surprisingly, large segments of Americans are willing to buy Chinese made cars. Market research company GfK Automotive did its annual Barometer of Automotive Awareness and Imagery, and found that 38 percent of the respondents would consider buying a Chinese car. According to the study, “The openness to purchasing a Chinese and Indian vehicle is highest among Gen Y consumers, with 52 percent saying they are open to a vehicle from a Chinese automaker and 41 percent saying they are open to a vehicle from an Indian automaker.”
Don Deveaux, managing director of Gfk Automotive commented on the issue saying, “When a relatively unknown auto brand enters the market, potential buyers are going to have some initial skepticism without a frame of reference into the company’s history and differentiators from other brands. Quality and repair support are critical factors that potential buyers evaluate before purchasing a new vehicle, and without an established history in the United States, Chinese and Indian manufacturers need to overcome the lack of knowledge of their brands among potential new buyers.”
Currently Chinese automakers suffer from a poor image due to continued promises to offer models in America (which never seem to come to fruition), not to mention numerous poor marks in crash tests. Then again, who cares about safety when you can get a Bentley-styled SUV, like the Huatai B35 above.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
The Nissan Leaf became the first EV to get a five star crash test rating from the Euro NCAP program, after scoring well in all categories involving passenger safety, on-board safety systems and pedestrian safety.
Also notable was the car’s lithium-ion battery system, which according to Nissan “completely withstood all the impacts.” “The Nissan Leaf proves that EVs can achieve the same safety levels as traditional cars. The standard is now set for the next generation of such cars on the European market,” said Euro NCAP Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen.
The Leaf scored better than the Volvo V60, the Lexus CT200h and the Ford Focus for pedestrian safety. The Leaf scored 65 percent on the pedestrian safety test, better than the 60 percent required to gain a top score in the category.
Another one makes the cut. Add the 2012 Volvo S60 to the list of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick award winners. That means it earned good performance ratings for front, side, rollover, and rear crash protection. It also comes with standard electronic stability control (ESC), which is also needed to win this award.
It has been a few years since the S60 has picked up a Top Safety Pick. In previous years, the S60 sedan only earned good ratings in the Institute’s front and rear evaluations, but when it came to the side impact test, it was only rated acceptable (in previous models, they weren’t tested for roof strength in rollover crashes).
But that’s old news, and the good news is that the new model has made the grade when it came to testing side impact and roof strength tests. The IIHS found that the roof of the S60 withstood a force equal to 4.95 times the car’s weight. Right now, the current federal standard is 1.5 times weight.
The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety awarded the Mazda 3 with its Top Pick honor in the small car category. The Mazda3 met the criteria by scoring a “Good” rating in all crash test categories (front, side, rear and rollover) and has electronic stability control.
The Mazda3 is the first car from the automaker to score a Top Pick since the IIHS enacted new roof strength regulations, but it is also joined by 12 other small cars in receiving the accolade, including the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze and Kia Forte.
While the Mazda3 was judged to be capable of withstanding forces on the roof equal to more than five times the vehicle’s weight, the IIHS noted that injuries to the pelvis, ribs and right leg are possible, although the risk is low.
Ford announced today that five of their vehicles have been selected as Top Safety Picks By The IIHS, boosting their total to 11 vehicles. The 2010 Ford Flex and Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and MKT and the Mercury Milan all scored the highest possible ratings in the IIHS’s front, side and rear impact tests as well as their roof strength test. The ratings mean that Ford now leads the industry in Top Safety Picks as well as government five-star crash ratings.
Hit the jump to read the official press release
Looks like Toyota might not be the only company having problems with “unintended acceleration.” At a recent demonstration of Volvo’s collision avoidance system, the Swedish automaker shot a Volvo S60 out of a specialized tunnel and aimed it directly at the back of a dump truck. Ostensibly, the collision avoidance system was supposed to bring the car to a stop without human intervention, but things didn’t work out as planned, with the car slamming into the truck in front of an assembled crowd of journalists.
Volvo claims that human error caused the crash, due to a lack of preparation on Volvo’s part, and that a human driver would have been able to notice that the system wasn’t working properly. We’re not safety experts and will withhold comment for now, but there’s no doubt that this was an embarrassing episode for a company renowned for their safe vehicles.
Where you one of those kids who would smash your toy cars together? If so, I bet your dream job lies in Sweden in Volvo’s crash test laboratory. More than 3,000 full-scale crashes have taken place, making this the most used and (still) most advanced crash research centre on the planet.
“We can replicate most of the accident scenarios that take place out on the roads. By analysing the results and then testing new safety technology, we can improve the safety level in our cars so that they become even safer in real-life traffic conditions,” said Thomas Broberg, senior safety advisor at Volvo Cars.
How advanced is this place? Well, they’ve just installed new cameras…that can take video at 200,000 frames per second.
“The degree of precision in a test in which two moving cars collide at 31 mph is 2.5 centimetres. This corresponds to two thousandths of a second. By way of comparison, a blink of the human eye takes about 60 thousandths of a second. This says a whole lot about the laboratory’s precision,” says Broberg.
Click through for some incredible facts about the safety center.