NHTSA ESV (Experimental Safety Vehicle) design project in the 70’s

Design For Survival: a look at the Experimental Safety Vehicle by Automotive Fleet

Automotive Fleet writes “With the ESV project, DOT began to look at the entire car rather than just its various components. And, while accident avoidance and handling characteristics are a part of the ESV specifications, the trust of the program is in terms of crash worthiness, of the ability of the car’s occupants to survive. The standards in this area are impressive ones: survivability of passengers in 50 MPH front and rear end collisions, with solid barriers, adequate protection for occupants to survive a 70 MPH rollover, side protection to withstand 30 MPH collisions, no damage to the body of the car in frontal or rear collisions up to 10 MPH, among others. And all of these capabilities must be built into a vehicle with the dimensions of a standard, four door, five passenger sedan. At about 4000 pounds, the ESV falls into the so-called full – size category.”

NHTSA during the 1970’s was researching car designs that exceed many of today’s safety features. We have been arguing for high-speed underride guard designs with many being tested successfully since the 1990’s and earlier. MUARC in Australia and the IMPACT PROJECT in Brazil. Volvo has been researching how to protect cars and trucks in higher speed crashes since the 1960’s and we have to ask why high-speed crash protection is not achievable in 2016 and beyond? Why was this being achieved successfully in the 60’s and 70’s and we cannot do this now? Volvo and Toyota and American car companies extended their bumpers, some with extensive energy-absorption as much as a foot beyond the car to meet NHTSA’s requirement for crash protection to 50 mph. We recall a car design with foam energy absorbing bumpers extending a foot out from the car on the front, side, and rear. Studies at Volvo showed:

The size of an energy-absorbing truck front structure directly correlates to the survivable closing speed between car and truck in head-on collisions (e.g. 75 km/h (47 mph) survivable closing speed requires a 400 mm (1.3 feet) long energy-absorbing structure, 90 km/h (56 mph), requires 800 mm (2.6 feet)).From Volvo Report

Extending bumpers out from trucks or cars increases the length of the energy absorbing system or material allowing higher speed protection with less deceleration forces on the passengers. There is also less force transmitted to the vulnerable truck frame which could cause loss of connection with the underride guards.

6024_VESC_Volvo_Experimental_Safety_CarExtended bumper Volvo VESC (Volvo Experimental Safety Car) in the 70’s – Volvo Photo

1024px-1973_Toyota_ESV_01 author Mytho881973 Toyota ESV with extended bumper photo by Mytho88

High speed crash tests are a waste of time, high-speed underride guards are not achievable, we must crash test at 35 mph and never higher! Enough!!!!! 50 mph crash protection achieved in the 1970’s when NHTSA just bothered to ask for it!!!!!!

When we crash test at 30 mph for 30 years we get underride guards that perform exactly to 30 mph for thirty years. Damn it! So many have died while industry fed the public propaganda and disinformation! IIHS is now testing to 35 mph and a few guards are now passing the tests. IIHS and NHTSA are testing cars to 35 mph and most are passing the tests. Just imagine if NHTSA had begun crash testing to 50 mph in 1973! Remember those side bumpers on the ESV vehicles we mentioned, thousands died in side crashes with cars! Cars today can survive full frontal and offset crashes to 35 mph thanks completely to NCAP and IIHS and European crash testing programs. But, we had 50 mph in 1973?

Do not settle for stiff non-energy absorbing underride guards for trucks. Extend the guards from the trucks to increase the effective speed protection in crashes. Start NCAP style 50 mph plus crash testing programs for underride guards and we guarantee that you will have guards that perform past 50 mph in crashes with cars.