Volvo goes to extreme measures to help rescuers understand heavily crashed cars and how to work around them.
Everyone knows Volvo is pedantic about the safety features of their cars but no one would have ever guessed that Volvo would go to such extremes to help gather extensive data with regard to extreme car crashes.
The latest method used by Volvo to do car crash research is to drop a car 30 meters from the air via a crane. It is the most extreme crash test ever executed by Volvo Cars let alone any other manufacturer that we can recall at least, and a crucial one where it helps rescuers to understand what does happen if it ever happened for real.
Extrication specialists often use cars crashed at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre to hone their lifesaving skills.
This approach helped create enough damage to adequately simulate the damage found in the most extreme crash scenarios: think of single-car accidents at very high speed, accidents whereby a car hits a truck at high speed, or accidents whereby a car takes a severe hit from the side.
In such situations, people inside the car are likely to be in a critical condition. Therefore the priority is to get people out of the car and to a hospital as quickly as possible, using hydraulic rescue tools known in the industry as ‘jaws of life’. Extrication specialists often talk about the golden hour: they need to release and get a patient to the hospital within one hour after the accident has happened.
“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.”
The other reason why Volvo is helping conduct this research with extrication specialists is because 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 fifteen to twenty 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 different 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.
Apart from the huge respect we give to Volvo for doing this, we couldn't also help but to respect the safety of their cars because if you haven't noticed, the Volvo cars that were involved in this test mostly had their cabins still intact - now that's some safety provided by Swedish metal alright.