Ford Taurus Versus the Shopping CartPosted on May 13th, 2009
Engineers use shopping carts, bicycle wheels and water cannons to test airbag performance
Skidding shopping carts, blasting water and errant bicycle wheels are all in a day’s work for Ford engineers, whose job is to validate a new type of side airbag sensor. The new airbags use pressure pulses from a side impact to deploy up to thirty percent faster than with acceleration-based sensors.
Pressure-based sensors can more accurately measure the severity of a crash, to determine whether or not the airbags should deploy. Engineers use the shopping carts and bicycle wheels to ensure the airbags won’t deploy during minor collisions.
In one test, a robot pushes a shopping cart loaded with a 110-pound weight into the vehicle doors at ten miles-per-hour. Another robotic test replicates a bicycle wheel hitting the door.
Engineers use water cannons to analyze how vehicles react when being struck from the side. An air-powered water cannon is mounted in the rear compartment of the test car. The cannon blasts water outward, causing a recoil impulse that forces the car into a skid. The results help engineers fine tune stability control systems that prevent the driver from losing control, due to excessive yaw.
Rough road tests
Anybody who’s driven in the upper Midwest has experienced potholes large enough to loosen a person’s fillings. They can also cause airbag sensors to deploy when they don’t need to.
As part of the validation, engineers test drive vehicles into curbs and railroad tracks at high speeds. Their test track is full of jarring surfaces, including potholes, chatter bumps and ditches. Engineers also use a multi-tailed steel whip to “pepper” the car’s underbody where the side airbag sensors are located. Data from these tests helps engineers to refine sensor calibrations.
The 2010 Ford Taurus and 2009 Ford F-150 are the first two vehicles to be equipped with the new side airbag sensing systems.
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