How to Ensure Vehicle Safety with Data & Insights From Impact Testing

Improving Vehicle Design with Data & Insights for Increased Automotive Occupant Safety

If someone were to ask you what patent no. 37435 represented, you’d likely have no idea. However, if they were to tell you the name of that 1886 patent ‘vehicle powered by a gas engine’, you would immediately realize they were talking about a car. Most people associate the Model T with the first “real” automobile, but in fact, it is Carl Benz’s open-air carriage that marks the first step toward motor vehicles.

Since the days of the ‘vehicle powered by a gas engine,’ everything has changed. Cars are now enclosed. We have seat belts, windshield wipers, and many other inventions to improve the safety for vehicle occupants. The automotive industry has taken its duty toward testing very seriously in recent decades.

More than any other endeavor, testing is responsible for reducing injury and fatality across the globe. Without it, we cannot know if an airbag works or makes a wreck worse, if wipers clear water from the windshield or merely smear it around; and if a crumple zone absorbs impact or adversely affects passengers inside. As safety standards rise, so have our ability to meet them – all through improving vehicle design through testing.

Here's a quick look at advances that have been made in automotive safety.

Read More: IIHS Includes XSENSOR Technology in Crash Test Protocol Update

Automotive Safety: A Crash Course

It’s impossible to know how safe a vehicle is if you don’t test it. Whether we’re talking about a car manufactured in the United States or elsewhere, vehicle safety is one of the highest priority boxes to check before you release a new model onto the market.

So exactly how do we approach testing today?

Rise of the ATD

Whether you’re talking about airbags or seat belts, it is imperative to know how a safety system affects the people it’s meant to protect – without testing on live subjects. The easiest way to simulate the effects of an impact on the drivers and passengers inside is to use an ATD.

For more than half a century, ATDs have provided this service. However, while visual inspections and physical measurements are very useful tools, the addition of crash test dummy sensors has astronomically increased the wealth and specificity of the data. As such, these measurement systems help us draw conclusions that are leading to more safe vehicles than ever before.

Seat Belts Improve Outcomes

As with any other system in a car, we must ensure that seat belts do more good than harm. Incorrectly placed, they can seriously injure or even kill someone. Correctly designed and worn, however, are one of the best ways to increase auto safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, 51% were not wearing seat belts,” and “Seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been wearing seat belts, in 2017 alone.”

They work, in other words. And part of the reason they are so effective today is due to extensive testing using atd dummies and sensors, enabling us to see areas of dangerously high pressure and adjust accordingly during the next iteration.

Airbags Get Better All the Time

Another of the most critical auto safety features is the airbag. While initially invented in 1952 by John Hetrick, it wasn’t until the 70s that auto companies began developing airbags for commercial vehicles. Today, they are a hallmark of the front seat and steering wheel, with increasing numbers of companies installing curtain airbags, deployment systems in the center of the vehicle and more.

Again, at risk of repeating ourselves, crash testing is a critical step in determining how effective these systems are – and the possible dangers they might bring. After all, it is possible to suffer from a blind spot in automobile safety design and while driving. Sensors perform the same service here as with seat belts, letting us know if everything is working as it should be – and how to respond to anything that is not.


The Importance of Vehicle Sensors & Impact Testing

While impact testing has a long and storied history, it has only in the last few years reached the height of promise toward which the sensor industry has been working. We can now research the impacts of any safety system, collect and analyze data, draw conclusions, and use those conclusions to design newer, better prototypes.

Today’s cutting-edge tools from XSENSOR, combined with top-shelf software technologies, make improving vehicle design for automotive safety easier. With such technology at your fingertips, it increases compliance and decreases legal risk.

Download XSENSOR Technology's FREE ebook, A Leading-Edge Look at Impact Sensors.

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