Volvo Cars has destroyed some of its new cars for a good cause. In order to help rescue and emergency services improve their life-saving skills, Volvo dropped its cars multiple times to simulate crash scenarios. This is thus far the most extreme crash test executed by Volvo Cars to aid and prepare extrication specialists for emergencies.
The new Volvos are dropped multiple times from a crane, from 30 metres up, to simulate the extreme forces of a bad crash. This allows rescue services to prepare for any possible crash scenario, beyond what can be simulated with ordinary crash testing.
This method helped to create enough damage to adequately simulate the damage found in the most extreme crash scenarios e.g. single-car accidents at very high speed, accidents where a car hits a truck at high speed, or accidents where a car takes a severe hit from the side.
In such situations, the occupants in the car are likely to suffer critical injuries. Therefore, the priority is to get people out of the car and to a hospital as quickly as possible. Extrication specialists often talk about the golden hour i.e. the crucial one hour after the accident that determines the chance of survival.
“We have been working closely together with the Swedish rescue services for many years,” says Håkan Gustafson, a senior investigator with the Volvo Cars Traffic Accident Research Team. “That is because we have the same goal: to have safer roads for all. We hope no one ever needs to experience the most severe accidents, but not all accidents can be avoided. So it is vital there are methods to help save lives when the most severe accidents do happen.”
All findings from the crashes and the resulting extrication work will be collected in an extensive research report. This report will be made available free of use to rescue workers elsewhere, allowing them to benefit from the findings and further develop their life-saving capabilities.
Usually, rescue workers get their training vehicles from scrapyards. But these cars are often up to two decades old. And in terms of steel strength, safety cage construction and overall durability, there is a vast difference between modern cars and those built 15 to 20 years ago. And new Volvos are made of some of the hardest steel found in modern cars.
This makes it crucial for rescue workers to constantly update their familiarity with newer car models and review their processes, in order to develop new extrication techniques. In other words, these training sessions can mean the difference between life and death. So at the request of the rescue services, Volvo Cars decided to step things up a notch.
“Normally we only crash cars in the laboratory, but this was the first time we dropped them from a crane,” says Håkan Gustafson. “We knew we would see extreme deformations after the test, and we did this to give the rescue team a real challenge to work with.”
A total of ten Volvos, of various models, were dropped from the crane several times. Before the drop, Volvo Cars safety engineers made exact calculations about how much pressure and force each car needed to be exposed to, in order to reach the desired level of damage.
The Volvo Cars Traffic Accident Research Team has been working since the 1970s and constantly documents and gathers data from accident sites for analysis and potential application of safety related solutions.