The art of turning an amusement park ride into a run-off road test at Volvo Cars Safety Centre (video)
Volvo Cars’ safety expert Anders Axelson knows that brilliant ideas can pop up in the strangest of circumstances. A visit to Legoland with his twin daughters in 2007 inspired Anders to turn an amusement park ride into an efficient test method in Volvo Cars’ quest for better protection in run-off road crashes.
“Watching people being thrown in all directions during a ride in the ‘Robocoaster’, I suddenly realised that those rapid, random movements resembled the violent forces occupants in a run-off road crash are exposed to,” says Anders Axelson.
Run-off road crashes had been on Anders’ mind since 2006 when Volvo Cars intensified the development of technology to help protect car occupants in these common and complex scenarios.
Based on real-life accident data, Anders Axelson’s team initiated three complete vehicle crash test track methods, called ‘Ditch’, ‘Airborne’ and ‘Rough terrain’, for evaluating the consequences of various run-off road scenarios.
Analysing films from a large number of these tests confirmed that being thrown out of the ideal, firmly strapped-in seat position correlates well with potential injury-causing mechanisms seen in real-world crashes.
Searching for a test method
“The engineers developed promising solutions to actively retract the occupants in order to keep them in position. But since running complete cars into the terrain is a time-consuming and expensive test method, we needed a quicker and cheaper solution to evaluate the ideas,” Anders Axelson recalls.
The stroke of genius conveniently came on a family trip to Legoland in Denmark. At the time, Anders’s twin girls were too small for the ‘Robocoaster’, but after watching other kids being shaken by the robot arm, he realised that the ride had potential beyond making kids scream with joy.
Back at the office, Anders started searching for a similar robot that could be programmed to mimic the exact movement patterns that Volvo Cars had recorded during the complete vehicle run-off road crash tests.
Unique test rig
“The industrial robot manufacturer ABB had the technology and the knowledge to programme a machine designed for precision work to move a car seat around in a seemingly random pattern. It worked brilliantly,” says Anders Axelson.
A vehicle seat and restraint system is mounted on the multi-axial industrial robot. The robot, which is used together with a crash test dummy, can be programmed to simulate the occupant kinematics during crucial parts of run-off road scenarios.
During the development work of the all-new XC90 and upcoming cars based on the company’s new scalable architecture, Volvo Cars’ own ‘Robocoaster’ has been used to find the combination of safety belt geometry, rapid belt retraction and seat design that helps keep the occupant firmly in position in run-off road scenarios.
World-first run-off road safety solution
The result is a world-first run-off road protection package that includes rapid electrical safety belt retraction as well as unique ‘energy-absorbing’ functionality in the seat that cushions the vertical forces that occur in a ‘hard landing’ in the terrain.
“The most valuable result from the ‘Robocoaster’ tests is probably the insight into how well the safety belt retraction interacts with the enhanced side support in our new seat generation,” says Anders Axelson.
By the way, Anders Axelson never went on the ‘Robocoaster’ ride during that visit to Legoland. “No way. Violent rides like that make me sick,” he says with a smile.
‘Ship-wrecks’ arrive safe, tell of escape from mid-ocean reef
ALICANTE, Spain, December 3 – Volvo Ocean Race’s ship-wrecked nine-man Team Vestas Wind crew finally made it back to civilization on Wednesday, telling of their amazing escape from a collision with an Indian Ocean reef which grounded their boat.
The unshaven, exhausted team in the global ocean race were holed up, incommunicado, for three days in the remote archipelago after their boat ran into the reef on Saturday afternoon at 1510 UTC.
Chris Nicholson, their 45-year-old skipper from New South Wales, who was contesting his fourth edition of the nine-month Volvo Ocean Race until the accident at the weekend, said he was still piecing together his emotions after the crash.
“I’m really disappointed of course - on the other hand, we have to realize how fortunate we are for everyone to be here in one piece, and to be healthy. It’s pretty amazing, so there’s a lot of emotions at the moment,” he told volvooceanrace.com shortly after arriving at dockside in Mauritius.
“The past four days have been very challenging for all of us, and I am extremely proud of the whole crew’s professionalism, composure, and endurance. It’s clear that human error is responsible for the shipwreck, there’s no avoiding that. And as skipper, I take ultimate responsibility.”
They had smashed into the coral rock at 19 knots – the equivalent of 35 kilometers an hour – in the 65-foot Volvo Ocean 65 boat, spun 180 degrees and crashed to a halt, grounded on the reef.
They remained on the reef until the small hours of the following morning, before abandoning the boat in pitch darkness and wading in knee deep water to a dry position on the reef, led by Nicholson.
A small boat from the local coastguard then took them early on Sunday to a small islet, Íle du Sud, which is known as a favorite with shark-watching holiday-makers.
The crew could have left the area on Tuesday but decided to stay an extra day to pick up key equipment from their battered boat.
Their blue vessel, caught underneath breaking waves, is badly damaged, but the crew decided to remain for an extra 24 hours to complete a clean-up operation around the area.
“The bad things had to come off,” said Nicholson, having just stepped off the local fishing boat, ‘The Eliza’, that transported the nine-strong crew back to the mainland.
“We had a clear list of removing that equipment, and once we had all those off the boat it came down to removing things that were expensive.
“We’ve done a really good job in clearing it all up.”
Experienced New Zealander sailor Rob Salthouse was also keen to focus on the positives. “It’s just good to be back on dry land,” he said.
“I think the team has grown strong with what we’ve been through.”
Danish sailor Peter Wibroe, white shirt stained yellow by sand, sweat and sea salt, was full of admiration for Nicholson.
“I must say that the team worked really well together, especially Nico, the skipper, who led the whole situation in a very professional way.
He continued: “We all felt extremely safe despite the situation. We were conscious about what was going on and we all had our responsibilities.
“We worked really well as a team, and that’s why we’re all here today.”
The team’s main sponsors, Vestas, a wind energy company, said they were now focused on returning to the race which will continue until the end of June 2015.
“Though we won’t be able to compete in the next leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China, we are considering all available options for re-joining the race at a later stage,” said Morten Albæk, Vestas’ chief marketing officer.
“We’ll learn more about the details of what happened exactly when we have a chance to properly debrief with the crew, which we expect to happen in Abu Dhabi over the weekend.”
A spokesman from fellow sponsor Powerhouse added: “We at Powerhouse are extremely relieved that no one was injured as a result of the incident.
“When we entered the Volvo Ocean Race with Team Vestas Wind we understood it would be life at the extreme.
“The team still faces many uncertainties, however, we are more than ever committed to support the team in this extremely challenging situation and help them to get back in the race. We are deeply involved, in successful times and in challenging times.”
Volvo V60 Polestar Wins Best New Sports Performance Car over $50,000 at the 2015 Canadian Car of the Year Awards
Toronto, ON. December 2nd, 2014. The Automobile Journalist Association of Canada (AJAC) announced this year’s “Best New” category winners for the 2015 Canadian Car of the Year Awards. Winning the 2015 Best New Sports – Performance (over $50k) category was the 2015 V60 Polestar. The two other finalists that finished behind the V60 Polestar in voting were the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.
“Volvo Canada is thrilled to accept the award in sports performance on behalf of the impressive V60 Polestar,” said Marc Engelen, President & CEO of Volvo Cars of Canada. “The Polestar models are both high-performing and practical, offering versatility that does not go unnoticed; this award is added proof of its distinction and representation of automotive excellence.”
The event in which each vehicle was measured was at the annual “TestFest” held in Niagara Falls, Ontario this past October. The testing process was held during a five-day evaluation with more than 70 automotive journalists participating.