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In the moment: Volvo XC90 vs Euro NCAP crash test barrier

Published: 23 September 2016

► What happens during a Euro NCAP crash test
► Technical manager Richard Schram explains
► Say goodbye to one shiny Volvo XC90...

1) Crash…

‘This is an offset frontal impact test, replicating a collision where one car drifts into the lane of another – representative of many impacts in the real world. The car hits the barrier at 64km/h (39.8mph), which doesn’t sound all that fast driving yourself, but if you see the test car driving into a concrete block at that speed, it makes an impression.’

2) …bang…

‘What really amazes me when I see a crash test is that the actual event is really, really short. It takes only about 0.2sec, the blink of an eye. There’s a very loud bang, the car bounces back and it’s all over. Including preparation and post-crash analysis, a test like this would require roughly three days of work by a whole bunch of people.’

3) …wallop!

‘In this picture, the blue block represents an impact with another car, reproducing the behaviour of its crumple zone. For the future, Euro NCAP is looking at developing an actual car-to-car test. This could provide key data for situations where a smaller car collides with a larger car, where there is a bit more energy involved.’

4) Safety cameras

‘We use high-speed cameras, 1000 frames per second, which need a lot of light [hence the spotlights]. The footage lets us investigate the way the airbags deploy, while sensors in the dummies themselves record the forces and acceleration. After the test we look at the pillars, passenger compartment etc.’

5) Good job, Volvo

‘The XC90 scored so highly [97% rating for adult occupant protection] because Volvo has done a great job of keeping the forces on the dummies low – airbags, seatbelts, seat design, all have an influence. We now also look at active safety systems, which help to prevent the crash in the first place.’

6) Keep it real

‘Generally [in the course of testing one model], we buy four cars minimum for different tests, spare parts for compression tests and seats for whiplash tests. I don’t see virtual testing replacing physical tests; it’s a supporting tool, but what everyone wants to see is it happening for real, to know that it works.’

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By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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